Shikotei-kun

Shikotei's Suffered Some Serious Shopping Spree Shenanigans

23 posts in this topic

___________________

Current:

Greedfall + DLC

Up next:
-

___________________

 

With the PS3 backlog event over, I found myself rather comfortable to report my progress throughout that period.
Also I felt the need to actually see what my current backlog contains. Now that this list is compiled.. it's daunting.
My previous goals of getting a 90% average completion and getting in the top 1000 national ranking have already been reached, so now it's time to keep that up (shouldn't be too hard, right?).

That's a lot of S's

I know, great huh? Ever since I got PS+ and got to browse the digital games shop, I made an effort to go through the WHOLE thing. I'd done most of the PS4 games and was about halfway through the PS3 when Sony decided to purge that section of their shop and confine it to the console. Sadly that kind of meant the end of my perusing of the digital-only PS3 games.
By now the whole PS4 and PS5 games lists on the Sony shop have been reviewed (as far as they appeared on the store anyway).
Over that past few years I regularly made purchases and kept them on a list aptly titled "The List". Now this list has become quite long, and my gaming habits have tried to keep shortening it, but let's face it... this is going to take a while to clear.

The purpose of this thread is to:

  • keep a record of my activities
  • summarize my experiences with each (partially) completed game
  • perhaps get some recommended games I missed out on
  • hopefully see the yet-to-play-games list shrink faster than it grows (yeah right!)

 

What about that 'H'? You a cheata'?

That's very simple: I've hidden 14 trophies from three games that I didn't play myself, or was used to show off new tech.
I am a user of exploits, bugs, glitches, and other in-game (un)intended player assist methods. Rubberbands, leave-console-on, wall-hugging.. I'll use them if the associated trophy is dumb enough.
The hidden games, if you must know, are:

  • Gran Turismo 5 (11 trophies)
  • LittleBigPlanet 2 (1 trophy)
  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (2 trophies)

 

Guidelines

As most people do, I too have some guidelines for my profile. They're not that restrictive as some, but they're still there.

  • I generally stay away from games that can be completed in less than an hour.
  • As a rule of thumb: digital games are worth about €3 per hour (as seen on the top 50 fastest completed).
  • Rarity of the platinum (or 100% completion) and the presence of DLC doesn't have a say whether or not I play the game
  • No visual novels. I have enough real books to last me another 3 years; no need to add digital ones.
  • No life-like shooters. There can be exceptions (BioShock, Borderlands, Dead Space) because they have an awesome story.
  • My preference goes towards active combat, though I have a selection of turn-based/grid-based games.
  • Long games allowed, but no black holes. I'll happily spend a few hundred hours on a game (Nioh 2, Fallout 4, Witcher III, Tales of Symphonia), but they must be spent in fun, not in mindless grinding (White Knight Chronicles).
  • General desire to push each individual game completion to beyond 80%, or at A-ranking
  • Stay above 90% overall completion.
  • Lastly: it's okay to break any of the above guidelines. They're not rules or laws. They're guidelines.

 

The meaty backlog

Below I've listed the current backlog per console, sorted A-Z and grouped physical/digital.

- PS3 -

-- Physical --

 

- PS4 -

-- Physical --

Spoiler

Aegis Of Earth: Protonovus Assault
The Alliance Alive HD Remastered
Assassin's Creed: Chronicles
Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
Assassin's Creed: Origins
Asterix & Obelix XXL 3 - The Crystal Menhir
Axiom Verge: Multiverse Edition
The Bard's Tale Remastered And Resnarkled
Battle Princess Madelyn
Bendy And The Ink Machine
Berserk And The Band Of The Hawk

Blue Fire
Bloodstained - Ritual Of The Night
Broken Sword 5 - The Serpent's Curse
Bunny Must Die! Chelsea And The 7 Devils
Children Of Morta
Cladun Returns: This Is Sengoku!
Cloudpunk
Code Vein
Crystar
Darksiders: Genesis
Dark Souls: Remastered
Death End Re;Quest
Death's Gambit
Dex
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes Of An Elusive Age - Definitive Edition
Dragon Quest Builders

The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet Of Chaos Trophies
The Dwarves
Elex
Enter The Gungeon
Fimbul
For Honor
For The King
Forager
Ghost Of A Tale
Hellmut

Icewind Dale
JackQuest: The Tale Of The Sword
Kingdom Hearts - 0.2 Birth By Sleep
Kingdom Hearts - Birth By Sleep
Kingdom Hearts - Dream Drop Distance
Kingdom Hearts - III
Labyrinth Of Refrain: Coven Of Dusk
Lapis Labyrinth
The Last Guardian
Little Dragons Café
Lost Sphear
Mages Of Mystralia
Metro 2033 Redux
Metro: Last Light Redux
Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom
Neon Abyss
Nights Of Azure
Nights Of Azure 2: Bride Of The New Moon
Oddworld: Soulstorm
Okami HD
Oninaki
Owlboy
The Pillars Of The Earth

Planescape: Torment
Raging Loop
Remnant: From The Ashes
Rise Of The Tomb Raider
Sakuna: Of Rice And Ruin
Salt And Sanctuary
Secret Of Mana
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
The Sexy Brutale
Shantae And The Pirates Curse
Shantae And The Seven Sirens
Shantae: Half Genie Hero
Shantae: Risky's Revenge
Shenmue I
Shenmue II
Shining Resonance Refrain
Sparklite
SuperEpic: The Entertaiment War
Sword Of The Necromancer
The Swords Of Ditto: Mormo's Curse
Tales Of Vesperia Definitive Edition
Tales Of Zestiria
Torment: Tides Of Numenera
Toukiden 2
Toukiden Kiwami
Trials Of Mana
UnEpic
Utawarerumono ZAN
Valfaris
Vesta
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition
Void Trrlm();
Volgarr The Viking

We Happy Few
Witch And The Hundred Knight 2
Yestermorrow
Yomawari: Midnight Shadows

 

-- Digital --

Spoiler

A Knight's Quest
The Adventure Pals
Aegis Defenders
AereA

Alchemist Adventure
All-Star Fruit Racing

Alone With You
Alphadia Genesis

Alwa's Awakening

Antiquia Lost
Apocalipsis: The Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Evil
Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition
Arc The Lad: Twilight Of The Spirits

Ark: Survival Evolved
Ash Of Gods: Redemption
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
Away: Journey To The Unexpected
Bard's Gold
The Bard's Tale IV
Bioshock: The Collection: Infinite
Blasting Agent
Bonds Of The Skies
Borderlands (+DLC)
Bubsy: Paws On Fire!
Bud Spencer & Terrence Hill - Slaps And Beans
Butcher
Castles
Chronus Arc
Clid The Snail
Coffin Dodgers
Conan Exiles
Concrete Genie
Control
Crossing Souls
Crown Trick
Cryptark

Curse Of The Dead Gods
Dandara
Dark Devotion
The Dark Eye: Chains Of Satinav
The Dark Eye: Memoria
Days Gone
The Deadly Tower Of Monsters
Death Road To Canada
Death Squared
Deep Ones
Demon's Crystals
Demon's Tier+
Die For Valhalla!
Dragon Sinker: Descendants Of Legend
Earthlock
Erica
Eternity: The Last Unicorn
Fall Of Light: Darkest Edition
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Firewatch
The Flame In The Flood
Flockers
Flynn: Son Of Crimson
Fox 'n Forests
GODS Remastered
GreedFall
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - Director's Cut
Giga Wrecker ALT.

Godfall
Graveyard Keeper (+DLC)
Guns, Gore And Cannoli 2
Headlander
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Heroes Of Hammerwatch
Hob
The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing II
The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing III
Illusion Of L'Phalcia
Immortal Planet
Jotun
JYDGE
Kero Blaster
Kholat

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning
Knee Deep
Knights Of Pen And Paper 1
Knights Of Pen And Paper 2
The Last Of Us Remastered
Legend Of The Tetrarchs
Legends Of Ethernal

LEGO DC Super-Villains
Lichtspeer
Liege Dragon
The Long Journey Home
Lovecraft's Untold Stories
Magicka 2
Mana Spark
Manual Samuel
Märchen Forest
MechaNika: Colossus Down
Mercenary Kings
The Messenger
Middle Earth: Shadow Of War
Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight
Moon Hunters
Monster Sanctuary
Mortal Shell
Moss
Mulaka
The Mummy Demastered
My Memory Of Us
Mystik Belle
Nefarious
Never Alone (+DLC)
Next Up Hero
Nightmare Boy
Nine Parchments
Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty
Omega Strike
Omensight
Pankapu
Paper Beast
Party Hard

Persona 5 Strikers
Pixel Gladiator
Planet Of The Eyes
Poi
Poncho
Rainbow Moon
Rainbow Skies
Randals' Monday
Rebel Galaxy
Regions Of Ruin
Reknum
Re:Turn - One Way Trip
Revenant Saga
Rez Infinite
Riddled Corpses EX
Rogue Legacy
Rogue Stormers
Scheming Through The Zombie Apocalypse: The Beginning
Sephirothic Stories
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider
Shadwen
Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom
Skelly Selest

Slay the Spire
Songbringer (+DLC)
Sonic Forces

SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle For Bikini Bottom
Star Wars: Squadrons
Stories: The Path of Destinies
Streets Of Red: Devil's Dare
Streets Of Rogue
Super Cane Magic Zero
Surgeon Simulator

Team Sonic Racing
Thumper
Timespinner
Tokyo Dark - Remembrance
Trine 3: The Artifacts Of Power
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince
Trulon: The Shadow Engine
Unbox: Newbie's Adventure
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection: 1
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection: 2
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection: 3
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Undead Horde
Underhero
Undermine
Undertale
Unravel
Unravel Two
Valhalla Hills
Vampyr
We Are The Dwarves
Willy Jetman: Astromonkey's Revenge
Wizard Of Legend
Worse Than Death
Yaga
Zombie Vikings

 

- PS5 -

- Physical -

Cris Tales

Tales Of Arise

-- Digital --

Shopping list

No shopping spree is without a shopping list!
I regularly check the PS store for new releases and add them to this list if they're interesting. This mostly involves checking out the screenshots, promo video, and often a separate trailer or review. I don't have a preference regarding who does the reviewing. Various sources have different opinions and standards, so I think it's best to check out multiple reviewers for a better understanding of the game.
I do look at the trophy list and the associated forums to see if there's troubles ahead (like glitched trophies, game-breaking bugs).
This whole process is often repeated once the game goes on a sale. Why? To see if the game still holds my interest! Sometimes a week, a month, or a year passes before I can find it for a nice price. Why pay 50-60 if you can wait (and play backlogged games) and pay only 5-10? Physical games have a higher value and are often bought once they drop below 20.
I keep track of prices with my own tracker. It's a simple HTML page with some JavaScript that fetches the data on each game from Sony's servers and shows me the normal and discount prices (and dates).
With a press of the fetch-button I can check my whole list and see which games are on sale, how much the price is lowered, and until when this new price is valid. It's much better than anything Sony's had in the past (wishlist).
When the webstore got revamped I expanded my code to also show the screenshots and video that Sony removed from their shop (and still hasn't put back).
Since I don't know which version (console/physical/digital) I'll be getting (if I'm getting it at all) I'm just gonna list them all here:
 

Spoiler

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
A Boy And His Blob
Aeterna Noctis
Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings
Alwa's Legacy
Baldo The Guardian Owls
Battalion Commander
Biomutant
Black Book
Blacksmith Of The Sand Kingdom
Blue Fire
Bookbound Brigade
Buster's Quest: Trials Of Hamsterdam
Carmageddon: Max Damage
Child Of Light
Chronos: Before The Ashes
Cogen: Sword Of Rewind

Conan Chop Chop
Contrast
Cosmic Star Heroine
Cozy Grove
Death End Re;Quest 2
Death's Door
Demoniaca: Everlasting Night
Detention
Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced
Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: Amulet of Chaos - Chicken Edition
Dysmantle
Edge Of Eternity
Eekeemoo - Splinters Of The Dark Shard
Effie

Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising
El Hijo - A Wild West Tale
Eldest Souls
The End Is Nigh
Ender Lilies
Ghost Of Tsushima
Grow: Song Of The Evertree
Heaven's Vault
Ikenfell
It Came From Space And Ate Our Brains
Khara The Game
King's Bounty II
Kwaidan ~Azuma Manor Story~
Lacuna
The Last Tinker: City Of Colors
The Life And Suffering Of Sir Brante
Little Nightmares II
Lost In Random
Megadimension Neptunia VII
Monster Viator

Moss 2
Mutazione

Nobody Saves The World
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath
The Pathless
Phoenotopia: Awakening
Praey For The Gods
RWBY - Grimm Eclipse
Rain City
Rise Of The Third Power

Sally Face

Salt And Sacrifice

Samurai Bringer
Scott Pilgrim

The Serpent Rogue
Shu
Sifu
Siralim
Siralim 2
Skautfold: Shrouded In Sanity
Skul: The Hero Slayer
Solar Ash
Song Of The Deep

Source Of Madness
Super Neptunia RPG

The Swapper
SwapQuest
Tails Of Iron
Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows
Tangle Tower

Tasomachi: Behind The Twilight
Treasures Of The Aegean

Tunche
Tyr: Chains Of Valhalla
Unbound: Worlds Apart
Unsighted
Unto The End
Vagante
Webbed
The Wild At Heart
Wildfire
Wizards Of Brandel
Wulverblade
Wytchwood
Xuan Yuan Sword VII

Young Souls

 

Games overview

So what about the adventures I've had so far? Well, they are quite varying and very numerous! Third person, first person, isometric, fixed/railed camera, high-grade graphics, toon, pixel art... There's no real preference here. If I were to exclude something it would be the pure shooters, fighters and the visual novels. The former has often too little story, and the latter too much of it. A good game in my opinion has a balance of both action and story. Fighters (Tekken/Streetfighter/Mortal Kombat) are incredible time sinkers and simply frustrate me too much. Tekken 6 was one of the hardest platinums I have because of it.
I tend to stick to one game at a time. This is so I only need to remember one control scheme and am much less likely to press the wrong button.
When I cleaned up Dead Space 2 (by playing the Severed DLC) and followed up with Dead Space I had a lot of trouble adjusting to the different scheme. The devs have switched "Reload" and "Stasis" around, causing my death quite a few times.
Since I've come back to plenty of them I felt it made no real sense to order them by date.
Each tile has a mouseover text that shows the title of the game in case of duplicate images (Kingdom Hearts, Sly Cooper), those with unreadable texts or simply no text.

Completed to 100% (226)

Spoiler

AbzûAdam's VentureAfter PartyA Hat In TimeAlbedo: Eyes From Outer SpaceAlchemist's CastleAlice: Madness ReturnsAnodyneAragamiArcaniaArietta of SpiritsArmikrogArslan: The Warriors Of LegendAry and the Secret of SeasonsAsdivine HeartsAssassin's Creed IIAssassin's Creed: BrotherhoodAssassin's Creed: RevelationsAssassin's Creed IIIAssassin's Creed: RogueAssassin's Creed IV: Black FlagAssassin's Creed: SyndicateBatman: Arkham Origins - BlackgateBatman: The Telltale SeriesBatman: The Enemy WithinBayonettaBeast QuestBentley's HackpackBeyond EyesBeyond Good & Evil HDBeyond: Two SoulsBioShockBioShock 2BlasphemousBloodborneThe Book Of Unwritten Tales 2Borderlands: The Pre-SequelBorderlands 2Broken AgeBrothers: Tale Of Two SonsBurly Men At SeaCandle: The Power Of The FlameCastle CrashersCat QuestCelesteChasmChronicles Of Teddy: Harmony Of ExidusThe Count LucanorCreaksDark SoulsDark Souls IIDark Souls II: Scholar Of The First SinDark Souls IIIDarksidersDarksiders IIDarksiders IIIDead CellsDead SpaceDead Space: IgnitionDecay Of LogosDegrees Of SeparationDemetrios: The Big Cynical AdventureDemon's Souls: RemakeDemon's SoulsDeponiaChaos On DeponiaGoodbye DeponiaDeponia DoomsdayDevious DungeonDevious Dungeon 2Diablo III: Reaper Of SoulsDragon Age: OriginsDragon's DogmaDreamfall ChaptersDrowningDungeon Siege IIIEdna & Harvey: The BreakoutEdna & Harvey: Harvey's New EyesThe Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimElliot QuestEventide: Slavic FableEventide 2: Sorcerer's MirrorEventide 3: Legacy Of LegendsEvoland 1 & 2Fallout: New VegasFallout 4Far Cry 3Far Cry: PrimalFeFigmentFinal Fantasy Type-0 HDFlipping DeathForgotton AnneFull Throttle RemasteredFurwindGhost ParadeGhoulboyGod Of War (2018)GRISGuns, Gore And CannoliHabroxiaHaimrikHammerwatchHollow KnightHydrophobiaHyperdimension NeptuniaHyperdimension Neptunia mk2Hyperdimension Neptunia VictoryIconoclastsThe Incredible Adventures Of Van HelsingInFamousInFamous 2InFamous: First LightInFamous: Second SonThe Inner WorldThe Inner World: The Last Wind MonkIron CrypticleIrony Curtain: From Matryoshka With LoveJak And Daxter: The Precursor LegacyJak IIJak 3Kena: Bridge Of SpiritsKingdom HeartsKingdoms Of Amalur: ReckoningLegend Of The SkyfishLego: Harry Potter Years 1-4Lego: Harry Potter Years 5-7The Liar Princess And The Blind PrincessLife Is StrangeLife Is Strange: Before The StormThe Little AcreLittle MisfortuneThe Long ReachLords Of The FallenMachinariumMad Age & This GuyMecho TalesMinoriaMistoverMoonlighterThe MoosemanMurdered: Soul SuspectNi No Kuni: Wrath Of The White WitchNieR: AutomataNioh 2Nova-111OceanhornOliver's Adventures In The FairylandOne Piece: Pirate WarriorsThe Outer WorldsOxenfreePinstripePlanet AlphaProjection: First LightPsychotic's Agatha KnifePsychotic's MechaNikaRatchet & ClankRatchet & Clank 2: Going CommandoRatchet & Clank 3: Up Your ArsenalRatchet & Clank: A Crack In TimeRatchet & Clank: Into The NexusRatchet & Clank: Rift ApartRatchet: DeadlockedRatchet & Clank: Full Frontal AssaultRatchet & Clank: All 4 OneRatchet & Clank (2016)Red BowRed GoddessRemiLoreReverieRift KeeperRiver City GirlsThe SaboteurScribblenauts Mega PackSeasons After FallShady Part Of MeSilenceSkelattackSly Cooper And The Thievius RacoonusSly 2: Band Of ThievesSly 3: Honor Among ThievesSly Cooper: Thieves In TimeSly MinigamesSmoke And SacrificeSongbird SymphonyState Of Anarky: Master Of MayhemSubnauticaSubject 13SunderedSyberia 3Tales Of Graces fTales Of SymphoniaTales Of XilliaThe Talos PrincipleTearaway UnfoldedTekken 6Tesla vs LovecraftTeslagradTetrobot And CoThimbleweed ParkTiny Troopers Joint OpsToby: The Secret MineTomb Raider: LegendTomb Raider: AnniversaryTomb Raider: UnderworldTomb Raider (2013)TorenThe Town Of LightTrigger WitchTrineTrine 2Typoman: RevisedValiant HeartsWaking VioletWarlock's TowerWeakWood ThroneWhat Remains Of Edith FinchThe Witch And The Hundred KnightThe Witcher 3: Wild Hunt GOTYWonder Boy In Monster WorldWonder Boy: The Dragon's TrapX-BladesXenon Valkyrie+XeodrifterZero Escape: The Nonary GamesZero Time Dilemma

Platinum, not 100% (11)

DLC yet to start, delisted, not interested, glitched, done as much as I can
Spoiler

Brutal LegendDante's InfernoDead IslandEnslaved: Odyssey To The WestHorizon Zero DawnHuman Fall FlatIndivisibleMiddle-Earth: Shadow Of MordorNi No Kuni II: Revenant KingdomNiohWorms 2: Armageddon

Not 100% (39)

Beyond my skills, dropped, glitched, speedruns, servers gone, grindfest, clean-up required, may include DLC
Spoiler

Aces Of The LuftwaffeBatman: Arkham AsylumBatman: Arkham CityBatman: Arkham OriginsBatman: Arkham KnightCastlevania: Lords Of ShadowDead Space 2Duke Nukem ForeverDungreedGinger: Beyond The CrystalGod Of WarGod Of War IIGod Of War: Chains Of OlympusGod Of War IIIGod Of War: Ghost Of SpartaGod Of War: AscensionHyper Light DrifterI Want To Be HumanKingdom Hearts Re: Chain Of MemoriesKingdom Hearts IILet Them ComeLittle NightmaresLumoMirror's EdgePlayStation All-Stars: Battle RoyaleRogue AcesScott Pilgrim vs. The WorldShadow Of The ColossusSonic & All-Stars Racing TransformedSplit/SecondTales Of Xillia 2Trinity UniverseVostok IncWatch DogsWay Of The Samurai 4Whipseey And The Lost AtlasWhite Knight ChroniclesThe WitnessYakuza 0

 

Shameless plugs? Shameless plugs!

Pandas With Bombs Discord - where I'm most active
Long running pet project: Remake of The Vision Factory's The Apprentice from 1994 video and site

 

Trophy guides

Arietta Of Spirits

Ary And The Secret Of Seasons

Mistover + DLC

The Outer Worlds - Peril On Gorgon

Xenon Valkyrie+  - GOTY 2021 nominated

Edited by Shikotei-kun
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Man, I keep hearing about that Panda. He never finishes games… and then the moderators, they kinda silly. 

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New on the shopping list:
Hoa
Skul: The Hero Slayer
Tandem: A Tale Of Shadows
Tangle Tower
Unsighted
Xuan Yuan Sword VII

 

New on the backlog:

Skelly Selest

 

Progress of the week:

Still playing Tales of Graces. It's a big game, like any Tales of game is, and I've reached a point in the story where 6 out of 7 playable characters are in my current party.

This meant that I could obtain a whole bunch of titles for all characters, access a ton of side-quest stuff and basically get sidetracked for most of the week.

With most of the characters now with about 50 titles (and close to 45 titles leveled up to level 5 out of 6) I figure it's time to continue the story.

I'm playing this blind, so I'm probably missing out on some side quests and discoveries (though so far I've got them all in order). So far non of the "boss X in 60 seconds" were obtained; probably due to the "Moderate" difficulty (two steps above Easy). My plan for these is to get them all in the next playthrough with the help of the grade shop's experience multipliers and other bonuses that should make and a lot of other challenges far easier.

As far as difficulty goes, "Evil" is unlocked (it requires winning 200 battles on "Hard"), and I've had my taste in "Evil" battles; they're brutal. The chances of getting a TPK are high, with a KO in every battle so far. They're great in getting Asbel's Curry Lover title (cook Curry during battle, which requires a character's HP to go to zero), but a TPK results in game over. High stakes, high gains! Winning 300 battles on "Evil" unlocks "Chaos". I can only imagine what brutal death awaits me...

 

In other news:

I've got a new lead on the glitchy trophies of Syberia 3, stating that the EU disc + v1.05 patch should make them all obtainable if I play in French (oh boy) and completely wipe my previous saves (just to be safe). So perhaps after Tales I'll give it another shot.

The series has a good story, and after two very glitchy playthroughs I should be able to get it done, regardless of the game's language.

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New on the shopping list:
- The Swapper

New on the physical PS4 backlog:
- Arietta Of Spirits
- Enter The Gungeon removed from digital
- The Swords Of Ditto: Mormo's Curse removed from digital
- Yestermorrow

Even though I already own Enter the Gungeon and The Swords Of Ditto digitally for the PS4, there's a little story to them.
I regularly visit a few sites that sell a small selection of physical editions of indie games that otherwise would stay a digital-only title.
Well-known ones like Limited Run Games usually sell out quite fast, but there's a few other sites:
- Strictly Limited Games
- Super Rare Games
- Special Reserve Games
- Red Art Games
- Hardcopy Games
Even Play-Asia has some exclusive releases. Some publishers, like NIS America and JanduSoft, also have some of their games for sale at their own webstore.

I'm also no stranger to long shipping times, either due to the great distance (trans-Atlantic, east Asia) so if a package takes a few weeks to arrive that's perfectly normal.
Sometimes the folks at customs are being overwhelmed or show special interest in the contents of the package and delay the arrival. All in all it's not too strange for an order to be underway for a while.
But the Special Reserve Games package (containing Gungeon and Ditto) took quite a while... SRG is based in Texas, USA and, being trans-Atlantic, I reckoned it would take a week or 2 (if shipped immediately).
However, the nature of the item meant it might not go into production yet and is currently on pre-sale (they're limited to just 1000 copies after all), or the production is ongoing and won't actually ship until SRG received them.
So I thought the games would arrive sometime in the next few months: I'd keep an eye on the order status and see when it changed.
This was back in November 2020. Fast forward to May this year and the status was still unchanged: "pending fulfillment". Yet their shop had changed the game's status to "sold out", so I was a little worried and sent a message requesting an update.
In the days that followed I got exactly zero response, so I started thinking about cancelling the order and getting a refund. But doing so would definitely lock me out of ever getting these games for a nice price (loads of limited games are sold for sky-high prices).
Eventually I did nothing, as I decided I didn't need the money badly enough to warrant an immediate refund. Instead I waited some more and eventually forgot about the whole thing (again).
Fast forward again to last Tuesday when I received a note in my mailbox stating a missed delivery (like so many before when I'm at work). Turns out the package contained the long awaited two games!

As to why I bought these games physically while already owning them digitally... I like having things physically; sometimes it's not about the money, but the goodies.

Progress of the week
Originally planned to post progress every monday, but I was so close to beating the (non-extended) story that I wanted to post this the next day. Then I got that notification in the mail box (far too late to go ring up the neighbor's) so that got delayed again.
Anyhow...

I've completed the story on Moderate difficulty late night on Monday (technically Tuesday). The final fight took some three minutes, and another few for the final-final form. Far too long for the "gone in 60 seconds" related trophy, but it's fine. As with many Tales Of games you get a grade shop when starting NG+ (I didn't want to go through the ninth/extended chapter on NG) and got everything I wanted.

I had 1700 grade and spent 1690 for all my desired bonuses. Now armed with 10x experience, half my end-game gold (620k) as starter cash, every non-material thing inherited (mixer books, data books, titles, skill-usages)I started NG+ and am currently following a guide to grab all the missables, blast through the game to reach the point of no return again in the fastest way so I can grind out the full team in terms of titles, skills, gear, and the mixer and forging (dualizing) data.

It's going to be a fun ride, being far overleveled, but short of skills to properly fight. It's like using a butterknife to break a rock: the thing is stupidly weak, but the stats of the wielder enable it to split boulders.

So far all the kill-stuff-fast popped, and I even got a free 20-titles for Richard. Turns out his stats kept growing during his absence in the main game and when he joined my party it popped unexpectedly!

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New on the pre-order list (currently this is the whole list):

- Trigger Witch (a Play-Asia exclusive physical release for PS5)

 

I wanted to add The Cruel King And The Great Hero to this list, but the NIS America store doesn't actually have any shipping methods listed for my country. I hope this changes in the future. I really enjoyed the very similar looking/(playing?) The Liar Princess And The Blind Prince.

 

Progress of the week:

The Dispaters dual bossfight (one that needs to be completed within 60 seconds) had me stumped for a while. I could easily dispatch them, but initial tries required 67 to 71 seconds. A little too long... The cause probably laid with me having skipped out on regular battles so I ended up being level 44. The solution was fairly simple: fight more, gain more skills/attacks/stats and try again later.

One downside to having a 10x experience multiplier is that the amount of obtained skill points is utterly low compared to my initial playthrough!

Once again I've reached the point where the party is basically set for the rest of the game. I've started beating up mobs on the (currently) highest difficulty: Evil. After 300 battles I should unlock the actual highest difficulty level named "Chaos". So far, only bosses are tough as nails on this level.

Also I passed the 100 hour total play time mark. Oof.

Edited by Shikotei-kun
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New on the backlo-.. oh. It seems this week passed without adding to the backlog! Yay me!

Black Friday did have some awesome deals, but on games that either I already own, or weren't in stock by the time I found out.

So! On to..

 

Progress of the week:

It feels like I've completed almost 200 out of 252 Inn Requests (item fetch quests) and perhaps 50 out of 83 Side Quests. My characters are all sorta maxed out in terms of leveling up; I need almost 800k experience, while most regular battles yield as little as 3k. And that's at level 88/200. No way am I going to grind that much!

In terms of Titles, three characters are at or over 100, and the other 3 (in current party) are all near or above 90 titles. I hope to get these done so I can un-block their skills (high individual skill usage yields Titles).

Story-wise I haven't set a single step forward since arriving at the cut-off point for quests. My inventory is nicely saturating, the Titles are all getting maxed/mastered for those sweet, sweet stat boosts, I've gained some top-tier gear and will start Dualizing them (basically increase stats with smiting and fighting) to get my Chaos-difficulty boss-slaying loadout.

Because Chaos difficulty is still regularly kicking my ass. Only yesterday did I lose over half an hour of progress because I died during a mob-fight. What a waste =/

I'm easily capable of slaying many things on Evil (one difficulty level lower), but have regular KO's on Chaos... it's like you're stuck on the wrong speed and the higher gear is too heavy, while the lower one is too light.

 

 

On a separate note, I have some ideas regarding the layout and pop-out of the final review of games... and they involve Babstickles. I won't be using Sol or M.Sterious as they're not mine.

Who? Ah, you'll see. Only a select few will get what those names mean.

Edited by Shikotei-kun
Regular KO's happened on Chaos, not Evil
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Sadly removed from the shopping list:
- Hoa
- Judgment
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III

- The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV

 

Hoa turned out to be a game that is far too short for the price listed. Even with the discount. Either this game will stay on the list for a few years in the hope it'll get a deep enough discount, or it's off. And sadly, it's off.
As for Judgment: it might come back depending on how I like Yakuza 0. Since the two games ultimately play the same, it'll be in the back of my mind.
Regarding the removal of Trails of Cold Steel... it's an enormous series and I don't think really want to add that much. Each game is between 100-150 hours (according to the guides here). My playstyle would easily add 50 hours to each entry.

 

23 hours ago, pandaswithbombs said:

Just wanted to let you know the two bundles of Yakuza are on sale at the End of Year event on PSN. ;)

You're talking about the Origins (0, Kiwami, Kiwami 2) bundle and the 3/4/5 bundle.
 

Unfortunately, the first one doesn't exist in my region of the PSN store. The second bundle does.

One of my local(-ish) stores has the physical edition for a lower price (and guaranteed quality), so I won't be getting that one digitally.

Still thanks for the heads-up!


Progress of the week:
Hmmm... I've beaten the crap out of the Rockgagong (a humongous rock beast) in a fight that was time-limited to 20 minutes, and took 19 minutes and 37 seconds. This thing has the unique ability to literally eat your characters. Normally when one of them goes down to 0 hit points they're KO'd. This status can be reversed by a few means (life bottle, resurrection, revitalize). The Rockgagong eating your character removes them completely from the battlefield and as such, can no longer fight. With a time limit of 20 minutes that's quite the blow to your offensive capabilities!
After a whole more bunch of Inn Requests some of the regions were completed, and I started/completed all the Sidequests. With the missables completed I felt like moving forward with the story and reached the final boss again. This time I planned to beat it on Easy to get the 60-second-boss done, which wasn't as easy as it sounds. Even being 20 levels higher than last time, better stats, better weapons, actually using items (freeze time, boost ultimate-attack gauge), and a far more aggressive party line up (no healer).... it took 8 attempts to get my combat time down below 60 seconds!
But, with that time trial in the pocket I set my sight on defeating it on Evil (not enough confidence in beating it on Chaos yet) in the hope that Evil and Hard trophies stack. Turns out they don't, so another fight later both trophies were mine. I was also able to determine that beating it once, saving, then beating it again will once again trigger the "game cleared on x" trophy. With that knowledge I popped over to the "f" part of the game: the Future arc (also known as chapter 9).
On the way I gained the last title related trophies. Last night I got as far as the chapter's boss and wanted to attempt the speedy kill first. Unfortunately that 60-second battle lasted over 2 minutes. With no desire to grind levels, gear, etc I turned to the cheese strategy:
Some characters have a title that works like an Uno-reverse card in the sense that damage received is added to their next attack. With some stat-reducing tricks (all legit) it is possible to receive massive amounts of damage (your health is some 4000-6000, while you can receive over a million) and, with the new mechanic of "Accel mode" which restores your health and auto-counters, you can (with the right timing) cancel a KO while still benefiting of the damage boost.
So, in short: receive over 200 times your health in damage, don't die, and add that massive amount to your own damage: bye bye boss. The fight took less than 5 seconds. It was settled in one hit. Lame? Perhaps, but my current playthrough is already over 90 hours (putting the total playtime at 175-something hours). I'd very much like to get on with the stuff left rather than get stuck at a timed fight.

 

The things left to do are:
- the Zhonecage (a 10-floor dungeon)
- some more Inn Requests (I swear I'm nearly done), followed by boss fight
- half the Eleth Mixer (5100/9999) (requires lots of combat)
- beat the game on Chaos (I'm probably going to cheese it)
- beat the new final boss (requires clearing Zhonecage)
- beat the trio on Guardians of the Peak (also requires most of Zhonecage completed)

 

So: dungeon, fetch quests, and some more bosses ... nearly done, whew!

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Review edition!
Yes, after almost 195 hours playing Tales of Graces f it's finally done! The game is 100% completed. With further ado I present you my review of this magnificent entry in the Tales of series. The topics are as follows:
- Core gameplay: mechanics, character and camera controls,
- Repetitiveness: grinding experience, farming items, collectibles, mindless activities
- Attractiveness: music, sounds effects, graphics, user interface
- Playtime: hours spent (in-game clock, or ballpark estimate), and how long it 'felt' like
Tales of Graces f

Meet Babstickles, one of three official PSN Profiles mascots as seen in The Wonderful Writers thread! She's my entry in the server-event held in the Guide Writer's Discord.
She'll be joining me in reviewing the games I've played, with the mind of a guide writer while I take the role of the player.
Let's get started!

Core gameplay
Babstickles: There's an awful lot of mechanics in Tales of Graces. The combat combo system is a combination of the A- and B- artes and the direction or the left stick. Many of the moves need to be unlocked, and only 5 B-artes can be assigned to this button-stick combination.
Shikotei: Each attack has multiple 'elements' that influence the effectiveness of the attack based on the strengths and weaknesses of each individual opponent. To top it off there's multiple characters that can all be controlled (though one at a time), each with their own moves and combat strategies. It is quite a lot to take in, especially in the early portion of the game as I was working out which character and moves I could get a grip on. A-artes are separated in level 1 to level 4, each costing more CC (call it action points if you will) and can be chained together in increasing order. The direction of the left stick only determines which move is used, not the level. B-artes have to be bound to a specific direction to be used.
Depending on your level, and your gear you can increase the initial amount of CC you have per fight. Certain actions allow you to raise the available points, but only for that fight. It's quite a complex system. Thankfully these points refill while you're not attacking.
 
Babstickles: As with many Tales of games, this one has titles. They work a little different from what you've played so far, right? How does one gain more titles, and what effect do they have? Is it important to switch often, or are they only important during certain points in the game?
Shikotei: Titles are very important in this game. You can obtain over a 150 for most characters, and each has 6 levels of 'mastery'. Increasing the mastery of a title really requires two things: it must be equipped, and you must fight foes. At the end of combat a certain amount of Skill Points (SP) is rewarded, which are appointed to the currently equipped title. Each title's mastery level yields something different. A character's stat (HP, attack, defence, evasion or accuracy) can get increased, a new Arte learned, or even strengthened (increased critical rate, bonus damage, or even extra effect). Most of the overal strength of a character is due to their titles!
Getting a lot of them is therefor quite important. That said.. you get titles for nearly every action: defeating foes, using attacks, items found, time played!
Babstickles: What's this I read about this Eleth Mixer? It's the rarest trophy on the list, which makes me very curious. Is it that difficult, or is this one of those things that -if done last- is mindless grinding?
Shikotei: It's a device that can turnEleth into items, gear, restorative food, and anything inbetween. This mixer is obtained at the start of Chapter 2 and starts at 150 points. By cooking food (one use of the Mixer) its capacity increases by a few points. Depending on which food (and books) are set in the Mixer it can increase by 1 to 3 points per food cooked. There are also books that can be set into the Mixer to add effects.
Food is only cooked by the mixer during and after combat. These triggers are determined by the food itself and are plainly visible. Because the increments are so low, it's advised to start using this mechanic as soon as possible. So yes, this is a very grindy aspect, if not the grindiest thing in Tales of Graces f. When I had finished everything else in the game, my Mixer was at roughly 5800 points. Even with the optimum setup it took another 7 hours of mindless grinding for it to be maxed out at 9999 points.
Babstickles: Oh dear. That's rough. I assume you had some method that allowed you to absentmindedly do this?
Shikotei: Yes. I went to the end-game dungeon where the respawn time of enemies is mere seconds and set the party to full-auto combat. The group was strong enough to fight the enemies without my input. All I had to do was press a button a few times to complete the end-of-combat-rewards screen and walk to the next encouter. It was simple enough to do with one hand, and hold a book in another.
 
Babstickles: Full-auto combat? You are referring to the Strategy menu where you can set the priority, aggressiveness and defensiveness, and Arte-usage per character, yes? That's a very good way to minimize the personal contribution required during combat. It can even be used to let the game fight all your battles for you, lowering the bar for gamers who aren't all that interested or capable of high-octane combat.
I would like to discuss camera controls, but this game doesn't allow direct control of this mechanic.
Shikotei: True, so while exploring the world it's important to really look into the little nooks. Maybe you'll find a treasure chest, or sparkly item!
 
Babstickles: Lastly there's the Dualizing mechanic. A simple description would be "a technique that combines two items and creates a new one". Are there recipes you need to find, can you combine everything with everything?
Shikotei: That's a very accurate description of Dualizing. There are a lot of places where one can perform this action, mostly at Equipment and Item shops. These shops know all the recipes, so there's no need to find out which combination is valid. Cooking food works in the same way: the shops know the recipes, you need to bring the ingredients. Any food or items you cook or find is stored in one of the data books (enemy, item, weapon, armor, gem, character-specific, food) and can be set in the Eleth mixer to re-create (with only Eleth points as requirement). These stores can also refill your mixer.

Repetitiveness
Babstickles: Earlier you mentioned the Eleth Mixer as a very grindy aspect of the game. Are there other activities that the game throws at you that you feel are repetitive?
Shikotei: Well, yes, unfortunately there are a few aspects that match such a description. First off are the Inn Requests. Each city has an Inn with a Save Point and the opportunity to rest (restoring your health to full). Each Inn also offers a kind of fetch quest that asks for a specific item (or armor or weapon of a certain quality) which can be handed over to earn a reward. Most rewards are money, but there are quite a few that yield items. Every Request yields Skill Points.
The repetitiveness lies in the fact that, after completing the first 4 or 5, only one is shown as "open". You need to fulfill it, then wait a few minutes before the next one shows up, but you can't just wait in front of the Inn. I usually went to all the Inns, fulfilled the available request and went back to whatever it was I was doing before. There's a total of 12 cities, which each 21 requests. The last few cities aren't available until the very end of the game. It's a very time consuming aspect of the game.
 
Babstickles: You mentioned "quality" of a weapon? Is that where dualizing a weapon with a shard comes into play? Shards have a varying quality and, depending on the quality of the item, yields a different quality than the shard.
Shikotei: Indeed. Combining a shard with a weapon (or armor) changes its quality, but also raises the item's base stats. Getting the right quality for the Inn Requests was very frustrating. Shards have a low drop rate, and the quality seems fairly random.
 
Babstickles: How is the experience of leveling up? Some of the trophies require beating bosses in a very timely manner. You didn't get any of them the first time around, how did NG+ help?
Shikotei: The first time you play a Tales of game you start out with practically nothing. No knowledge of mechanics, no feel for the combat system, but most important of all is no bonuses from the Grade Shop only available in NG+ and onwards. Grade is earned differently in each entry of the series, but the Shop has some very nice bonuses. One such bonus is an experience multiplier, sometimes a damage multiplier. The Graces Shop provides means to make combat go by faster by making the player much stronger (exp multiplier) or increase damage (damage multiplier). I chose to play my first time 'round normally (albeit on a higher-than-Easy difficulty) to experience the story and have a good time.
Once I could start NG+, I did so with a x10 experience multiplier. This, and other bonuses, reduced the challenge of defeating bosses under a time-limit by quite a lot. Though I must admit that being overleveled is no quaranteed quick victory. One mustn't neglect the Title mastery!
Babstickles: That doesn't sound too bad, actually. Though you didn't do all the time-challenges by being strong and fast enough, did you? In the end you used the "Piggy-backing" method as described in the guide. For those curious enough: Some titles have the effect to add the last received damage to the character's next attack. By combining stat-reducing effects and an overload (Accel) mechanic the character can survive a massive hit and retaliate with that same massive damage, often leading to an insta-kill of the attacker. Was it difficult to pull off?
Shikotei: It wasn't until the boss of Chapter 9 that I resorted to this method. I also used it against the boss of Chapter 8 on Chaos (highest) difficulty. The timing is fairly strict, but I managed to pull it off at the second try.
As far as repetitive actions, there's only the title related ones. Because almost every character needs to obtain 100 titles and every skill has 2 related titles, it seemed simple enough to obtain those. Unfortunately, the skills have to be used several hundred times, and the AI doesn't always use the higher A-artes. By setting the usable Artes in the character's Artes tab it's at least possible to disallow the Artes that are already mastered. This does limit the character's combat options and may weaken them far too much. It's quite a grind to unlock them all!

Attractiveness
Babstickles: Moving on to the visuals and audio part. The graphics are, for a PS3 game, not that high def... are they?
Shikotei: No, they're not. The low poly characters, combined with a toony quality of the graphics makes it look more like a high quality PS2 game. That said it never bothered me. There is no texture pop-in, and no glitches of any kind. It has its charm. The low poly is also rarely noticable by the distance of the camera to the characters.
Now that I think about it, only the enemies, player characters and NPCs were really animated. The trees, bushes and grass were all static.
Babstickles: But the short animations during the story certainly must've made up for the otherwise 'still life' world! And the short chats between the party members had you entertained quite a bit!
Shikotei: You got me there. The Skits (of which there might be over 200) definitely flesh out the characters in the party. The bickering, shenanigans, jokes, and serious topic discussed in those are all very contributing to character development. They are all fully voiced, subtitled, and the portraits are all very much 'alive'.
 
Babstickles: Speaking of voices, over 90% of the lines are spoken! Only some of the side quests and inn requests are silent. It's almost a shame your edition didn't come with the original Japanese voices. Did you miss them?
Shikotei: I've played Tales of Symphonia with English and Japanese voices, and had to get used to the English ones after initially playing with Japanese voices. I can only say that the English voice actors in Graces f did a wonderful job of conveying the thoughts and feelings of the characters. None of them felt lacking.
Babstickles: The music is ever present, and varied per region and dungeon. Are the sounds matching the vibes of the environments they're used in?
Shikotei: Only a small tracks of music felt overly re-used or too short. The orchestral nature of many really matched tight with the region. That does mean that some placed had a more industrial quality than others, but that is what matched with the zone!
 
Babstickles: Anything to say about sound effects? Footsteps, 'weight' of an attack, echoes...?
Shikotei: There's one sound everyone who played any Tales of game will recognize to the point of 'hearing images': the Save Point.
Every action has its sound effect and it really created a sense of attention to detail. Walking on grass sounds different than on stone, or on snow. At the start of combat there's an indication of how morale is of the party by listening to what is said. There is a wide arrange of effects and I will not list them all.

Playtime
Babstickles: Lastly I'd like to know how much time you spent and how you'd rate the difficulty and overall experience.
Shikotei: The game keeps track of the time spent, so I can confidently say my first playthrough lasted over 80 hours, and the second over 110 hours.
In terms of how long it 'felt' like... There was rarely a dull moment. I was always looking ahead, working towards a goal, thinking about what steps to take next.
The difficulty of the game can be set from Easy, all the way to Chaos (with Normal, Moderate, Hard, Evil inbetween), and unless you're overleveled 'Chaos' will definitely take you to the limit! With the piggy-backing method every boss fight can be trivialized. I think you'll need quite a tenacious nature to stick with the game until the Platinum. It's not that hard, it just takes time.
All in all, I had a blast. If this were an eBay rating it would be "A++, would play again".

 

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Review edition!
I've committed myself to include Babstickles in all my review editions, and have her reflect the final verdict of each game. This edition is about the (in)famous game of the movie of the game: Ratchet And Clank. The topics are as follows:
- Core gameplay: mechanics, character and camera controls,
- Repetitiveness: grinding experience, farming items, collectibles, mindless activities
- Attractiveness: music, sounds effects, graphics, user interface
- Playtime: hours spent (in-game clock, or ballpark estimate), and how long it 'felt' like

Also, if you (the reader) would like to see different topics feel free to drop a suggestion! The format is just something I came up with at the time of writing the Tales of Graces f edition.
Ratchet & Clank (2016)

Let's get this edition on the rails!

Core gameplay
Babstickles: Looking at your list of games played, you seem quite at home when playing Ratchet & Clank games. Is this entry just as simple in terms of understanding mechanics?
Shikotei: Haha, yes! I've been holding off playing this entry for unknown reasons. Perhaps I've been waiting for the itch to arrive so I could scratch it with the Game of the Movie based on the Game. R&C (2016) uses many of the last entry's (Into The Nexus and A Crack In Time) mechanics: strafing, shooting, jumping. There's an aim assist available, but for many weapons this is no issue.
Destroying many of the objects in the world will yield Bolts (the game's currency), defeating enemies will get you plenty more. Bolts are used to purchase new weapons and restock your ammunition.
Weapons can be upgraded using Raritanium. This rare metal (har har) can be found in certain spots on each region and has a low droprate when defeating enemies. Enemies respawn after each new visit or death, so both Bolts and Raritanium are in infinite supply.
Weapons are also able to level up, which increase their base stats and open up more upgrade slots.
Contrary to many other entries, you start off with the Swing Shot which allows you to swing across large gaps from the get-go (provided there's an anchor point).
Defeating enemies also yields Ratchet some experience points, which will increase his health pool. Oh, and there's collectible Cards featuring characters and weapons from previous games. These are important during the second playthrough (Challenge mode).
Babstickles: Did you have any preferred weapon? There's a lot of them again this time.
Shikotei: Hmm... with the leveling up taking up a lot of time, I have spend a moderate time with each of the weapons. That said, there's are a few weapons that I didn't find all that useful. The Zurkon (shooting robot with a murder-mouth) lasts much too short. When maxed out and deployed in combat, they last about 5-10 seconds before disappearing. I've also noticed they can be destroyed by enemies. In the other entries that featured the Zurkon bot buddy it was a favorite of mine. Not so much in this game.
Another weapon that I found to be a little bit too situational was-
Babstickles: Pardon the interruption, but I'm interested in the good weapons.
Shikotei: Oh.. right. My bad. Funnily enough, I loved the Groovitron. Partly due to the fun atmosphere it creates (nobody fights during the time the disco-ball's active) and that it allows my two speedruns to go that much faster. Combined with the Warmonger it's a room-clearing combination. A maxed-out Groovitron and an active Infinite Ammo cheat can destroy all but the bosses in a few uses. You see, when one of the disco-ball's time is up (and you got the required upgrade) it explodes. It will also explode if you use a second (or third, depending on the upgrade unlocked) Groovitron. The result is a constant groovy soundtrack, exploding disco-balls and a certain trophy unlocked. If you don't miss any enemy types that is... oof.
Babstickles: Cheats? The ones unlocked by collecting more and more Gold Bolts?
Shikotei: Indeed. Gold Bolts are in this edition, though the Skill Points have not. The latter is comparable to an early version of trophies. They were quite a task to complete!
The Gold Bolts are spread about on each region and aren't that hard to collect. One (permanent) upgrade even shows them on the map! The number of Gold Bolts on each region is always shown when traveling from region to region.

Repetitiveness
Babstickles: You mentioned upgrading and leveling weapons, leveling up Ratchet, and two speedruns.. How fast do the weapons level and upgrade?
Shikotei: Hmm.. the weapons level up by use (spending ammo) and by defeating enemies with it. I suppose it's not a bad habit to often switch weapons, and never use a max-level weapon. By the end of my first playthrough, most of my weapons were at or near level 5. Leveling Ratchet up to max (200HP, with 10HP each level) isn't exactly measurable for me.
During Challenge mode you keep all your weapons, upgrades, Bolts, Gold Bolts, Raritanium... basically you only lose the story-bound gear. I uhh... used an exploit to farm bolts, cards, and raritanium. It's perfectly legal, you just need to get to a place you're not supposed to reach, activate Infinite Ammo and shoot down an infinitely respawning enemy.. at their spawn point.
Doing it legit will take some time, but this mode comes with a Bolt Multiplier: one that increases the more enemies you defeat without getting hurt yourself, up to a 20x multiplier! At the end you'll swim in currency. Nothing to worry about.
Babstickles: And why the two speedruns? There's nothing in the trophy list that indicates anything time-limited!
Shikotei: You know the platinum-gate trophy? Death by Disco? There's 48 different enemies, and some are seen only once. If you defeat them without using the Groovitron on them, you're looking at another playthrough. Only the first Challenge Mode playthrough carries progress on this trophy over from the previous playthrough. So if you completed this mode and haven't gotten it, you better get a guide and re-use the Groovitron on every enemy again.
Babstickles: That would explain the first speedrun. You didn't get it during Challenge Mode, but why the second? Did you mess up?
Shikotei: Short answer? Yes. I screwed up royally at the end of the first speedrun. I tagged every enemy, but missed the pre-final boss. I realized it two whole seconds after defeating it. Quitting the game didn't help. So I messed up some three-and-a-half hours. The second speedrun was even more barebone: an hour faster, with Invincibility and Infinite Ammo cheats active. I was happy to be done with the game.

Attractiveness
Babstickles: Moving on to the visuals and audio part. The graphics are stunning, aren't they?
Shikotei: If this was the first Ratchet & Clank game (from way back in 2002), it would've been the best looking game on the PS3. There's light effects, gorgeous explosions, a great variety of enemies and the world feels alive. Draw distance is still a small issue but only when you're flying around with a jetpack, so it's understandable. Visuals are vibrant, varying, and fitting each of the regions you visit.
Babstickles: The music has changed a lot throughout the series. How does it hold up in this entry?
I'm less impressed with the audio, though. Being the owner of a solid surround set it's jarring to hear the helmet-voices (communicator mission briefing, narrator) just from the front speakers. Even many of the roaming characters' voices often don't have a varying point of origin (like it should when rotating the camera or the character).
The levels of the effects, music, and speech is also horribly uneven. I had to lower the effects to barely 40% to be able to hear the Ryno's music track. The weapons' fire is loud enough to drown out the messages and comments by characters. If it weren't for the subtitles, I'd have no idea there even were any comments!
For a game series that used to have a varying genre of music, almost one per planet, having a constant orchestral soundtrack seems an odd choice. The tracks have little distinction and, if I'm being honest, little strength or presence. Even in the midst of a robot factory, surrounded by laser fences and killer bots there's an soft orchestral track. I would have liked more powerful stuff.

Playtime
Babstickles: Coming down to the last topic, how long did it take?
Shikotei: Well, the first playthrough was done blind. I mean, come on, it's Ratchet & Clank! All I needed to know was that the Challenge Mode playthrough was required and any missables had at least two chances. Anyhow, the first run took about 16 hours. Completing all puzzles, finding all the Gold Bolt and every gear, general exploration and card collection were done during this playthrough. The second playthrough I did with the missables in mind and may have taken some 6 more hours.
Babstickles: And the two speedruns took 3 and a half, and 2 and a half hours. That would take your total to almost 30 hours.
Shikotei: Sounds about right. Though I'll have to admit that the two speedruns were extremely funny. I used nothing but a Groovitron and either a Ryno or a Warmonger. I was never bored or felt lost; there was always a clear next goal.
Babstickles: Anything left to say? It can be about the most difficult objective, or perhaps you'd like to compare it to the game the movie was based on?
Shikotei: I've seen the threads, conversations, topics, and articles that discuss the differences between the 2002 original and this 2016 re-imagining and I think they'll cover the subject far better than I ever could. That said, I do think this 2016 game is a fun alternate-dimension take on the original game.
The most difficult thing of the original game (the Speedy skill point) was made significantly harder by having to beat the 1:35 time on the gold course instead of being allowed to do it on the bronze course (no exploding boxes). Yet... turning the game's speed to "Slow" and activating the "Invincible" cheat made this trivial. An attempt or three was enough to get it done.
____________________________
Useless tidbit of information: Drawing Babstickles took longer than platinuming the game... I've really underestimated the amount of details I added, and the highly asymmetrical design is definitely not helping.
Still, it's very relaxing and currently occupies my self-mandatory "take a break between games" time.
I should really make a close-up of her item bag some time. The level of detail of the previous drawing simply didn't allow a good rendition of the bag.

 

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DLC review edition! And about trophy guides!
- The Outer Worlds: Murder on Eridanos
- The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon
Babstickles' Bag

Babstickles: You're sure you don't want to use the previous topic format for this game? You seemed to have so much fun!
Shikotei: The topics themselves aren't the issue, it's the way I address them. I think it's too formal, too factual... not much of my own opinion is shown, is it?
Babstickles: Hmm reading them back with that in mind sure gets that point across. Very well, uhh.. I had the same questions prepared, but it seems I gotta wing it this time. Okay, I can do this!
Shikotei: Sorry for my selfish request. If your editor gives you any trouble you can blame me! Also, you can quote me on that.
Babstickles: Well, haha.. okay. Then let's start off with the question that's on everyone's mind when it comes to DLC: is it worth the price? There are a lot of folks out there who - out of principle - do not purchase extra content for their games, stating that the base game should be a complete, as-is, experience.
Shikotei: Hmm.. that's certainly an opinion I share, to some extend anyway. The Outer Worlds is a very enjoyable game, and certainly tells a complete story. The stories of the two DLC are an offshoot of the main game, and are self-containing. That is, they interact with the existing lore and characteristics of the history of the in-game universe. That said, I bought the Season Pass when it was in a discount (€ 19,99 instead of € 24,99) and do not regret it. The time I spent on each DLC is roughly 20 hours. My playstyle is fairly extensive: I loot everything, search everywhere, speak with everyone, and exhaust every dialog option. I should note that, if you skip past everything and purely follow the quest markers, you could blast through the content in 5 hours each.
Babstickles: That little huh? But you'd miss out on basically everything that makes the content worth it. Just like folks who skip all the dialog in light novels versus those who read and engage the story.
Shikotei: Exactly.
Babstickles: I saw you used your existing first playthrough character, and that it has been over a year since you last played this. Was it hard coming back to such an extensive world? Surely you must have forgotten some of the unsympatheticness of The Board, Spacer's Choice, Auntie Cleo's, and SubLight's less-than-strictly-legal businesses?
Shikotei: If there's one thing that really stuck, it's the depravity of those in power. The inhumane business models, exploitation of 'rules are rules, you signed the contract'. I had forgotten the depth of it though. And the stories in the each DLC brought that right back. My first captain is... lacking in upper floor processing power. The resulting dialog options are incredibly fun to use. Half the time the others don't know if I'm sarcastic, playing dumb, or serious. The looks and responses I get are hilarious! It's even more funny when you get a high Science speech check, pass it, and give detailed insight to some complex issue.

Babstickles: What made you write a guide for the Peril On Gorgon DLC? Someone had already written one for the Murder on Eridanos DLC and the base game; why not let them write the final guide too?
Shikotei: I noticed there's a collectible trophy for 20 phonographs, and that early searches didn't yield a complete list. I started taking screenshots of the locations where I found such a phonograph. Innocent enough at first, wouldn't you say? I like to think about the feelings of others, and so I contacted - via ping on the Writers' Discord - the writer of the other guides with the question if they were currently writing the last guide. Who knows, it might've been almost done, it might've been unstarted. With no answer in the short time that followed, other writers stated that the writing of DLC guides is "first come, first serve": meaning "just write it". And write it I did. During the time I played, I kept making screenshots, and once I had made the last one, started gathering the information I needed to fill in the blank "how to obtain trophy" descriptions. Amazingly, it took just over 7 hours to compile everything. Including the compiled images of the collectibles. Hitting that "queue for review" button felt completely different from writing the Xenon Valkyrie+ trophy guide.
Babstickles: Was it that easy? I've always thought it a very time consuming activity. Change little things here and there, alter formatting to a better consistency, what wording to use, when to use a table layout, which images to include - if any...
Shikotei: That's extremely dependent on the person writing, their style, the game's, and the trophy in question. There's really no true answer for your question. To some, the words come easy, but then become too verbose; to others it's the toughest task. All I can really say is this: anyone can try! The folk in the Discord are very kind, helpful, and have been through the same dilemma. I myself found it ... felt it was a necessity. I had to load an older save (an autosave of the day before!) to get one of the endings. I sped through half the DLC at the lowest difficulty and skipped everything possible to skip: cutscenes, dialog, combat even. Just to get that ending. Imagine not having that savegame! I'd have to start the whole DLC again (because I kept my original end-game save) or, *shudder* the whole game! To prevent that kind of situation is one of major purposes of trophy guides: a warning (and roadmap) about missables!

Shikotei: Speaking of unusual formats; would you care to shed some light on your bag? This edition shows a very close-up view of it!
Babstickles: Ah, well, uhh.. haha. I didn't expect this! There's really not much to say. It's quite a normal leather bag. The flap is normally held in place by a strap that slides between the bag ans the brass attachment. The clip on the strap can be pressed to release the flap again. The flask is held in place by two leather straps. The small metal studs on the tips can be twisted to lock it in place or release it. The quill isn't exactly my main writing utensil; I mean, it doesn't even fit into the flask! I just like the looks of them, ehehehe. The paper that sticks out kind of finishes the scribe's vibe I was going for. The corners protect most of the bag with metal reinforcements. They use studs to stay together and keep the bag's shape too.
Shikotei: Aha. How very fun it must've been to come up with these decorative items! It's a very personalized bag then. Are you planning on adding things in the future?
Babstickles: Maybe. If I encounter something I'd want to add, then yeah!
 
__________________________________
Progress of the week
Simply put I've started and completed the DLC of The Outer Worlds and have given Syberia 3 another go. So far the missing story trophy 20,000 Leagues Under The Lake has popped. With a little luck the other two glitched ones will pop too and earn me that shiny platinum!
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A lot of things happened in 2021, but in recent weeks I've been tinkering with a new 'toy'. This toy can read my PSN profile, trophies, games, the whole lot. Kind of like what PSNP has.

With one big difference: I have the raw data!

 

So I can do things like calculate the completion rate throughout the year, and not just "current" (like PSNP shows).

CompletionRate-21.png

You can really see when I started that PS3 backlog cleanup event!

 

Also, I can determine a heat map of how many trophies I earned at which hour of any day:

Heatmap-21.png
 

And determine some other statistics too!

:bronze: 769 (60.84%)
:silver: 329 (26.03%)
:gold: 129 (10.21%)
:platinum: 37 (2.93%)
Total 1264 (3.47 per day)
Days with a trophy 256
Games started 27
Games played 59
Games completed 47 (79.66%)

 

I can generate these with little trouble and for about everyone whose profile isn't private.


 

Getting back to what I did in the past week, games-wise.

 

Progress of the week

Syberia 3

Ah yes, Syberia 3. The game that didn't want to give me all its trophies no matter what I tried. I reported my findings the first time in this thread and, some weeks ago now, got a new tip to try.

Long story short: the bugginess is probably due to playing on "voyage" instead of "adventure". The latter has little to no hints as to what to do next. No idea why this is relevant, but the missing three trophies popped and gave me a shiny platinum.

There's currently no trophy guide, and... I'm not the one to make it. I've somewhat had my fill of Syberia 3 with 3 full playthroughs last year and another 1.5 this time 'round. I did make note of the things I did for the most elusive trophy (the game-spanning one), so I hope that'll help other folk out.

 

Human Fall Flat

Human Fall Flat got yet another DLC: The Laboratory. I went and knocked out the three trophies in a blind playthrough (I did look at the trophies to see what the 'limitations' were).

A good hour+ of wobbling around later and I could mark this one off again. Maybe, maybe at some point I'll come back to tick off the Dark DLC speedy one.

 

Diablo III: Reaper Of Souls

Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer DLC got purchased. It never went into any sort of discount in my region, so now was as good a time as any. Playing as a necromancer was incredible fun! You get to experience the whole story again (Campaign Mode) and plenty of characters have unique dialogue with this new class. There's more everything: monsters, set items, dungeons, skills, powers... so much to consider!

I didn't use the online part to power level to 70 (it's not really my thing to be dead weight). I did use Adventure Mode to gain some quick levels and gear up for the normal Campaign. If you're on the fence for this DLC (currently €15 in my region) it's worth the fun. You get a skill that blows up corpses of enemies! So you kill one, blow up its corpse and - if that killed anyone - use that corpse to kill even more! There's great stuff too: have your own personal army of skeletons, make a copy of yourself, have a flesh golem! Enemies basically get killed without you even lifting a finger!

Anyway. I had a blast for some 15-20 hours. The cleanup wasn't too bad either if you keep an eye out for the grindy ones (500 elites have to die by your skeletons).

 

A Hat In Time

A Hat In Time: Seal The Deal and Nyakuza Metro were next on my long list of (DLC) games to play.

This adorable platformer got two new DLCs (some 3 years after the game's release) and with a price tag of just €4 each, they're definitely worth your time!

The first one adds a new chapter (with 6 time pieces) and a load of challenges (ranging between "find stuff" to "complete 4 levels without jumping"). And let me tell you, those challenges are tough!

The second DLC adds yet another chapter with a whopping 10 time pieces, a HUGE level (somewhat interconnected), tons of new outfits and color schemes. Yes, you can use the baseball bat, the face-mask and the jersey Hat Kid is wearing on the promotional image. Don't worry about the 30 stickers, I've found almost 40 of them and I haven't even actively searched that much for them. They really are everywhere.

So far it's hard to tell how much time I spent on each of the two DLCs are I played them somewhat together. The Arctic chapter (Seal the Deal) is a little shorter, but makes up for it with the challenges (they'll eat up at least a dozen hours). The Nyakuza is big enough to last you at least 5 hours.

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Review edition! (somewhat belated)

 

AryAndTheSecretOfSeasons.png

Babstickles: So, Ary and the Secret of Seasons! I see you're currently writing a trophy guide for this game. When did you decide to do so?
Shikotei: Ah, yes, indeed! It's not finished yet, and only the Guidewriter's Discord knows this is being created because I dropped a question regarding a choice in layout. But yes, I'm creating a guide for this game for a few reasons. First - and foremost - there's ambiguous information on the internet about one of the trophies. This trophy is game-spanning and fairly fragile. It's the Distracted Intolerant, and its description claims you cannot complete any side quest.
Babstickles: Aren't those the "white" quests? As opposed to the "orange" main quests.
Shikotei: True, but there's a few of those white quests that are actually part of the main line and must be started and completed! I've found that out the hard way, unfortunately. It's fairly clear they need to be started because they progress the main story, yet there's one that gives you the required item before it's completed. So you can potentially do even less than required. But not completing it will count against you for the trophy. And a quick fix - say return to the NPC and complete it shortly before completing the game - isn't possible, as the quest becomes uncompletable some time during the main story line.
Babstickles: That would explain why you completed the game three separate times: a normal and full playthrough, the speedrun, and the no-sidequests playthrough. Most people would combine the last two playthroughs, but you lucked out on that.
Shikotei: Yep. Which is exactly why my guide will prevent others from having that same bad luck.
Babstickles: You mentioned having multiple reasons?
Shikotei: The second reason is that there's certain tall structures you have to climb up to the top and open a chest. There's nine of these, but most can't be scaled without furthering the main story first.
Babstickles: Because the story grants you the abilities you need? So it's indeed a very Zelda-like game with dungeons you traverse through to get more and more abilities that can solve the overworld problems!
Shikotei: Yes, and no. There's some "abilities" I found no specific purpose for, other than padding or just plain useless. The slingshot attack does almost no damage to the regular enemies, and is barely useful in dispatching the weakest of squishies. It's far more useful as a tool than as a weapon. The same goes for two of the four season powers; they either do less than, or the same as the other two season powers. I've also seen no significant change with most of the upgrades. Only the damage related upgrades were reliable. The Health Regeneration (outside of combat) sometimes doesn't trigger, even - at maximum upgrade - when standing still for over a minute my health didn't get restored.
Babstickles: Hmm, it's always a little disheartening to hear important mechanics of a game malfunctioning like that. Especially when there's game-spanning challenges bound to them.
Shikotei: There's a few more smaller reasons I want to make a guide for Ary like "because I can" or "because there's none yet". Things like that.
Babstickles: I'm guessing that's your creative tendency at work right there.
Shikotei: Speaking of which, how's the new look?
Babstickles: ...
Shikotei: With my last days off spent, it's back to full-time action. I can't exactly spend 15-20 hours on each review edition's drawing. I'm still fiddling with the style. Apologies.
Babstickles: *sigh* It's okay. There's plenty of chances to show me off. As long as it doesn't feel like a second job, I'll wait for my time to shine!
Shikotei: Sometimes it does feel like it's just us here, haha. How about we end this on a high note?
Babstickles: Skipping through the normal questions, as Ary and the Secret of Seasons isn't a complicated game... uhhh... did ya have fun?
Shikotei: It's a short game; the speedrun took just over 3 hours, but there's plenty of people to talk to and get to know the world a bit. The story's fairly simplistic, the controls are good and I loved the "reduce screen shake" option. I had great fun going through the dungeons solving puzzles in a way I had never been challenged before. Ary's abilities are certainly offering a unique experience in that aspect.
Babstickles: Ah, that's good to hear.
Shikotei: It's a quirky game, I'll give you that. And it could've been so much more if the small team (of 5 folks) had more time to add more spoken dialog and add more soundtracks. That's certainly a little missed thing after playing something that had everything voiced, dozens of soundtracks (with variations), and amazing abilities.
Babstickles: A Hat In Time really did a number on you, huh? Maybe come back to it some time in the future and do a full review?

 

Shikotei: Maybe. Go play A Hat In Time!
 

 

Progress of the week

S2ec5ae.png

 

Ary and the Secret of Seasons got started and completed. Also started working on the trophy guide for this game.

 

S8a15af.png

A Hat In Time: The DLCs were finished up. Man those last challenges were tough! Got my heart racing whenever I got near a success, only to fail at the last moments! I'm hooked to the soundtracks so much that I searched (and found) them on the 'net.

 

 

 

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A long overdue, and watery review edition!
Three games I've played in the past few weeks, all of varying quality and enjoyment.
- Arietta of Spirits
- Abzû
- Subnautica
Arietta of Spirits, Abzû & Subnautica

Babstickles: There you are! I was beginning to think you'd left this place in limbo after missing your weekly post multiple times!
Shikotei: Eh? Ah, oh, uhhh.. Well, to be fair I did finish the drawing on the 20th. At midnight. So technically on the 21st. Which would still be too late. *sigh* No getting away with it, is there?
Babstickles: Nope. Spill the beans. Where've you been?
Shikotei: Lately, I've been getting more and more active in the guide-making business. Getting my Xenon Valkyrie+ guide nominated for GOTY 2021 in the category Formatting was definitely a huge boost! It may not have won, but I didn't even think I'd get this far at all. It's a win in my book. My second guide (for The Outer Worlds) got published late December, and my third (for Ary and the Secret of Seasons soon after. Right now, in fact, I'm working on making a guide for the only game in the above list to not have one: Arietta of Spirits.
Babstickles: You never disappeared like that before, while making the other two guides.. what's so different about this game?
Shikotei: The game itself is pretty straightforward. As are most of the trophies. There's really only 3 that give me real trouble.
Babstickles: The two collectibles and the Extreme Mode one? Those are easy! Just grab the map from the internet and add dots on locations. Or use screenshots to indicate where to find them, like you did with The Outer Worlds.!
Shikotei: Hah. Hahaha. Ohhh, you. I would. If I could. There's a handful of video playthroughs that grab all the collectibles, but would you want to watch a 3 hour video for that? And the map? There's no in-game map, there's no map on the internet, and I'm not about to dive into the game's files (if I had any way to get those) to see if I can find it in there.
Babstickles: So...?
Shikotei: So, I'm building my own map. From scratch. With literally thousands of screenshots.
Babstickles: ...
Shikotei: ...
Babstickles: You.. how, why?!
Shikotei: *shrug* Because who else would? The game's fun enough and I think there should be far more than just 112 owners. A trophy guide will help convince folk to add this gem to their list of games played. It deserves it.
Babstickles: I hesitate to ask how much time you've already spent on this, and how many more you think you'll spend.
Shikotei: Hmm. Including recording a third playthrough in which I literally go everywhere... uhhh. Ballpark estimate? Upwards of 40 hours. And estimate at least another 10-15 hours.
Babstickles: If I had a hat, I'd tip it. Not that I'd want a hat.
Shikotei: If I can boast about one virtue, it'll be patience. I have a lot of it.
Babstickles: And the game itself? How'd you like it? I guess there's no point in trying to stick to the CRAP format.
Shikotei: No, no, no, I can be succinct. Core gameplay: Old-school Zelda, with only 2 items besides the sword. Repetitiveness: There's very little backtracking, and every day (chapter) brings you to new areas. Enemy types are few though. Attractiveness: The pixel art is nicely done, though there's little to indicate the world's "alive". Part of its charm really; the rustling leaves when you walk through them are a nice touch. Playtime: Blind 100% takes about 5 hours, subsequent playthroughs about 3-4.
Babstickles: Here I thought we'd be taking ages, because we've got two more games to go through!
Shikotei: I'll add just this: if you're on the fence about a purchase, take a chance and play an enjoyable game with a touching story.
 
Babstickles: On to Abzû? Yeah. Though I think everyone know it by now. It was a PS+ game a while back and even for free during the Play At Home event/action by Sony.
Shikotei: Well, Europe didn't get that for PS+ (we got Alienation), but I did grab it during the PAH event. The game was a welcome change of pace compared to the hecticness of Hat In Time, the uncertainty of Ary, and the deep story of Arietta. Abzû is a very simple game of underwater exploration, with a light story, few collectibles (with chapter select for easy cleanup) and some great views. All in all, a very zen game.
 
Babstickles: Which is why you wanted to continue that feeling by going straight to Subnautica?
Shikotei: Indeed. I thought it was a nice Minecraft-ish game, just (mostly) underwater.
Babstickles: But it's far more unstable than that, isn't it?
Shikotei: I lost count of how many times the game crashed. Sometimes losing 2 minutes of progress, sometimes more than 40 minutes. It even crashed during the saving of my game.
Babstickles: Oh no. It didn't... corrupt your save... did it?
Shikotei: It did. The console described my 40+ hour savegame as "Corrupted data". My backup savegame was a day old, meaning I'd lost over 8 hours of progress. And that's a lot of progress. I was ready to go to the last "chapter" of the story, so to speak, and had everything set up for that journey. I wanted to save and then call it a day.
Babstickles: Game thought otherwise, though. Ouch.
Shikotei: Crap like this is exactly why I use three (minimal) savegames are rotate them. So that in the case of a crash, I'd never lose more than 10, maybe 20 minutes. With zero chance for a total loss (corrupt data).
Babstickles: Honestly, I'd cut my losses and use the Dev's Menu commands to get the remaining trophies and skedaddle. It's what a lot of players have done. I almost feel sad for the amazing work that the guide writer put in their work. It's a valuable document after all.
Shikotei: When the corruption happened, I turned off the console and called it a day. The next time I booted the game I tried loading my savegame. Why? Because the crash happened mere seconds after I hit "save" and saving takes upwards of a minute or two. Maybe the game could read it without dying on me.
Babstickles: And?
Shikotei: The gaming Gods smiled on me. I lost about 40 minutes of playtime. I guess that's the last time it successfully saved. Still beats losing hours and hours.
Babstickles: What'd you do in those 40 minutes?
Shikotei: Mostly prepare for the long journey. All exploratory trips had been made. Preparation involved crafting multiple items, upgrades, and moving stuff about. Maybe get a thingy or two from other places. Nothing too daring. I'm just happy it loaded. I immediately saved, exited, and added it to the backup.
Babstickles: Good choice! Other than the crashes, were there any other ... negative experiences?
Shikotei: Oh yes. I liked the game, don't misunderstand, it's just.. there's so much loading going on. Assets (creatures, plants, ores, gathering spots, even things you can bump into) weren't loaded in for ages. If you traveled far with anything other than your own limbs, you'd get so much pop-in that it'd be a risk to your life to go any further. An active scanner shows the locations of a certain resource, and when I got to that spot, it wasn't there. Hadn't been loaded. Knowing this, I figured out that's why it was so frustrating to find resources at places I had recently arrived at: they weren't loaded. Not even clickable. Don't go look for things without a scanner, it'll save you a lot of time.
Babstickles: Sounds like the game needed far more polishing than it got. Memory management is a difficult thing after all.
Shikotei: Few games had this trouble though.
Babstickles: But with that knowledge, you could take it a little slower, take in the sights and sounds of the game. I heard those were real cool!
Shikotei: Music is definitely a good mood-setter. Depending on where you were (which biome) you'd get fitting music. The wails, shouts, calls, and noises the fauna made were a great way to get trembling flippers. The sheer size of some creatures makes you feel real tiny. The game's exploratory aspect is well worth the somewhat slog of getting the next type of material you need to continue the story.
Babstickles: You didn't get any hand-holding by the devs. They literally just drop you in a tiny pod and give you a half-corrupt PDA that tells you "stay alive" and basically becomes ... just that.
Shikotei: True, I did feel quite lost at the start. With no idea of the game's mechanics (or controls for that matter: I found out after 20 hours you can toggle the lights on your vehicle) or what item/tool/location/resource to search for. The trophy guide was an immense help.
Babstickles: Okay, I think I have a well enough idea of what you went through while playing Subnautica.
Shikotei: If you were saying it's a love/hate relationship.. you wouldn't be too far off. I am a little sad to see it completed, but far more happy that I'm done with it and can continue.
Babstickles: You never wanted to use the dev menu to 'get it over with'?
Shikotei: If my savegame was corrupted, I would've. Sure, I had an older save... but that's still 8 hours gone. And not even counting the lost time in previous crashes.
Babstickles: Wouldn't blame you, honestly. I'm glad you played it legit (heh).
Shikotei: Me too, somehow.
 
Babstickles: So what's next?
Shikotei: First, I want to complete the map and the trophy guide for Arietta of Spirits. I recorded most of what I need (and will probably need a few more), and I'm close to getting it completed. After that.. Aragami.
Babstickles: Ooohhhh, looking forward to that!
 
----
PS: Finally a full design of Babstickles! Well, mostly full design. I omitted her bag and kept her clean. All that swimming removed the stains.
Edited by Shikotei-kun
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It's been a while since I checked out the new games in the PSN store. In the past few months there're a lot of interesting games that made it to the shopping list!

 

New on the backlog (either due to purchase, or pre-order):

 

Progress of the last two weeks

First of all, I completed and got the trophy guide to Arietta Of Spirits published! All the maps you see in there are created by me using thousands of screenshots. Please check out the guide and the game, you may just like what you see.

 

Secondly, I've started and mostly completed Aragami. A stealth-heavy game where close-combat is a death sentence, light is your enemy, and there's loads of guards looking for you. Review edition coming next time, when I've completed the Nightfall DLC.

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Review edition! A little-known game, created as part of the PlayStation Talents Program : Aragami
 
Aragami

Babstickles: ...
Shikotei: ?
Babstickles: *glares menacingly*
Shikotei: What?
Babstickles: *continues glaring, slowly changing expression to mischievous*
Shikotei: Eh?
Babstickles: *shade away*
Shikotei: Oh boy...! Nope.
Shikotei: Noope. Nope, nope, nope-nope-nope! *fleeing Zoidberg sounds*
Babstickles: Heh, still got it.

Babstickles: Uhhh... he's not coming back... is he? Oopsie.

Core gameplay
Babstickles: Playing a stealth game where the range of view of the opponents is based on the amount of light cast on the player is incredibly fun. You can hide in the shadows and be practically invisible after getting 5 or so meters between you and the other guy. There's a few methods of staying undetected, with the best one a straight up invisibility mode (for a short time) and warping to any shadowy spot, even if it's just a twig's shadow. I'm not the best explainer, so bear with me. The story is fairly simple: you're a vengeful spirit summoned by a princess who needs you to find all the doohickeys and then reach her to free her. Thing is, you're made of shadow stuff and light will kinda kill you dead. Faint light (like from candles or torches) will drain your shadow stuff and leave you powerless, while the stronger stuff (like from the baddies) will get you dead instantly. Entering shadows will recharge that shadow stuff and allow you to use your abilities. You start off with a few basic ones, like shadow-warp, and by finding scrolls (collectibles) can unlock more powerful ones (like banishing poor sods to the shadow realm). One such unlockable adds the ability to 'ping' all collectibles in the area (and some other important bits), making that ability a highly recommended purchase.

Repetitiveness
Babstickles: Well, since the game awards players with up to two out of three medals, depending on their actions in a chapter (there's 13 chapters in the base game, and a further 4 in the Nightfall expansion): Oni - kill everyone, Yurei - never discovered, and Kami - kill nobody. Obviously, the "kill everyone" and "kill nobody" can't be earned at once, so every chapter must be played twice. If the player got discovered during both those times, another playthrough is needed. Some chapters are really tough to get through unseen, or require quite a bit of exploration in order to find -and kill- every last guard. Increasing the difficulty adds more adversaries, but no counter to keep track of how many are left. The final area of the last Nightfall chapter even has a time limit (and yes, you still have plenty guards to slay).

Attractiveness
Babstickles: Aragami's mouth is covered by cloth, and the apparition of the princess has a psychic link, so not a whole lot of lip-sync is present. In fact, nobody seems to need their lips to flap in order to speak words. It doesn't take away anything of the gameplay, but it's a bit immersion breaking. It's especially noticeable in Nightfall, where the two definitely human protagonists have their lips sealed tightly while speaking. The language is gibberish and far shorter than the written words, but still. Not jarring, but sorely missed.
In terms of sounds effects, there's a few, and they're nicely unique to each action. Various poofs, booms, void-traps and other noises all have their purpose. There's a little music, but it's mostly on the background.
Visually it's very simple, with many plain textures and re-used assets. The cell-shading finishes the style nicely, and I found it works well for the game. It doesn't look fancy, but that didn't stop me from appreciating it.

Playtime
Babstickles: Hmm.. This is heavily based on how you combine the earning of the medals. If you want the Oni and Yurei (kill everyone, but never be seen), you'll need far more time to complete each chapter. Many of the ones took about an hour or more. If you combine the unseen with Kami (kill nobody) you'd be much, much faster: many were completed in about a quarter of the time spent initially. Though this does take into account already knowing the chapter layout, purpose, and safest paths to take. All in all, I'd put the base game on about 20 hours: one hour per chapter + half that for a second run and cleanup. Some of the Nightfall chapters are very lengthy and took up to two hours (slay everyone unseen) or just 20 minutes (speed through without killing anyone). So.. your mileage may vary greatly.
Babstickles: ...

Babstickles: *sigh* He'll pop up sooner or later. Probably went back to dungeon diving in Moonlighter's Between Dimension DLC. He's begun that shortly after completing Aragami and partially drawing me in my days before PSNP. I had yet to *ahem* gather all the materials I needed. Back when cheat codes were far more common than today's .. glitchy exploits and pay-to-win models.
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Mass review edition!
I know my plan was to play Dead Cells after completing Moonlighter, but as I realized I lent it out to a friend (who wasn't done with it yet) I set out to identify and play a lot of the smaller games. Shorter games, story driven games, puzzle games... that sort of thing. So now that I've done a bunch of them, and not delaying an update even further by waiting, here's my (short) review of each game.

 

The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle

Highly recommended by multiple people, both on the forums and on Discord. The Talos Principle is a puzzle game. One where you roam the world and enter each puzzle "area" to try and get to the shiny at the end. Getting enough shinies opens up all the other worlds at the same time. Many of these puzzles were very easy, mostly at the start and sprinkled thinly near the end. There's a special category for the super-shiny pieces (the stars) whose difficulty to acquire ranges from "hmm, that's cleverly barricaded" to "how much acid did they take to come up with this?!". Naturally I eventually yielded to these star puzzles (found 20, picked up 15, there's 30-ish total). And yes, some of those star pieces had incredibly bullshit solutions. Most of the bullshit originates from "grab that one puzzle-item and yeet it over the boundaries so you can use another illegally obtained item to open up the path". I enjoyed the normal puzzles, and am proud to have obtained almost half the stars in the base game. There's a whole bunch of old CRT-monitors (terminals) where you can chat with The Archive and read up on the creators of the realm (and the Talos Principle itself). And although I didn't interact with it until the 3-way split endings, I did like the topic of the conversation. Road To Gehenna, the game's baked in DLC, was far more enjoyable. The puzzles were different, far more intricate and convoluted. But still boxed in (self-containing) unlike those star-puzzles. Which the DLC also has (and more bullshit). I definitely loved interacting with the other .. participants through the terminal. The small text-based games, questions, answers, art... they made the world feel far more alive than the base game. In short, I'm joining the voices of those who recommend playing this. Definitely give it a try!

 

WeakWood Throne

WeakWood Throne

One of the newer games, and the first of the truly short list of shorter games. This simple game piqued my interests and, for the right price, was bought knowing it would probably be a smaller game with some quirky story. Turns out I was half right: it is a small game. But the story is very, very thin. Mostly told by the few villagers and wanderers you can speak with. And those that don't sell equipment or items have a quest. Each quest is tied to a trophy, so there's not that many of them. The combat is straightforward: hit the opponent 4 times before it blocks everything until it can perform an attack. Doesn't matter if you took 10 seconds between each hit or spammed them in 4 seconds. There are no invincibility frames while dodging, so you'll have to really get out of the way. The boss fights are even simpler as they don't move at all. Avoiding their attacks and striking between them is the entire strategy. The last boss is broken and becomes a DPS battle, because that ass keeps spawning new minions. It's a simple game with a tough last fight, but nothing special really.

Mecho Tales

Mecho Tales

What's also nothing special is Mecho Tales. This 2D platform-shooter has a few broken mechanics that make the regular enemies cakewalks, and turns the boss-fights into a simple "survive long enough". I'm talking about one of the bot upgrades/versions that has infinite reach and split-up projectiles. These even split up when hitting the walls, floors, and edges of the level. Seeing how bosses are in a tiny room, this bot makes 80% of the screen deal damage to them. A short game with a few interesting throwbacks to the early Flash-games on the world wide web. If only bosses had a health bar, then it wouldn't seem like they were so damn tanky.

Psychotic's Agatha Knife

Psychotic's Agatha Knife

Agatha Knife is the 7 year old daughter of the town butcher and lives in said shop's abattoir. That's the place where she plays with the animals before they get sliced up into edible bits and sold. Did I mention the kid does the killing? This dark point-and-click game has a very fun story with tons of character dialogue options, witty comments, and good ol' dark humor. It's not a long game (couple of hours) and since you'll need two playthroughs anyway, is best enjoyed blind. Recommended for those with the stomach to read some disturbing conversations, and follow little Agatha in her journey to create her very own religion "Carnivorism" to help her keep the animals happy as she slices them up.

Psychotic's Agatha Knife

Psychotic's MechaNika

The direct sequel to Agatha Knife, Nika is the best (and probably only) friend of Agatha. Nika's the smartest kid in town and desires the destruction of all things bad and boring. Same as above, only much, much shorter (speedrunning would take about 20-25 minutes).
I do plan to get the third installment of the series "Colossus Down" at some point.

Creaks

Creaks

From a dark story, to a dark realm: Creaks is a hand-drawn puzzle adventure through a complex system of rooms, doors, ladders, dangerous furniture creatures, and friendly fowls. This beautifully crafted puzzler is a gem to play through. I recommend playing in a dark environment with the sound cranked up to hear all the little creaks, squeaks and rumbling of the dilapidated construct you'll roam through.

Figment

Figment

Figment has a fairly dark introduction sequence that has a stark change when the gameplay actually starts. Another puzzling game, but this time on an isometric plane. Jump, run, fight, shove and drag all sorts of things to progress the story that happens inside the mind. It's a decent puzzle/action game with great attention to music and feel of the world.

GRIS

GRIS

GRIS was definitely far more focussed with the music than Figment. It brought out the desolation and grandeur of the world far better than the previous game. As mainly a platformer with a few puzzling parts, it was a breeze to jump through, collecting almost all the shinies in my playthrough. Though beautifully handdrawn and colored, the game is very simple in execution. There's a mainly linear path to follow with dozens of small branches that leads to a shiny. The few challenges weren't too bad to do, with the exception of "Eel: Do not get bit" as each attempt started with a 2 minute unskippable cut-scene. All in all a pretty game with some solid platformingand decent puzzles.

Projection: First Light

Projection: First Light

Last in this review edition, but not last in the short list (there's 4 left at the moment): Projection: First Light wasn't as short as I thought it would be. Taking a solid 10 hours to complete by getting all the shinies as I went and re-getting them all if I missed one or more in a level. Yes, re-getting them. I missed one in a level that had three of them, went back to grab it, but when I exited to main menu it wasn't registered. It didn't register either when I completed that level with just the missed shiny. So I had to grab all three in one go for the menu to reflect 3/3 shinies. Made for some pretty lengthy replays as I searched high and low for them. Not a bad thing per se, but I would've appreciated the game more if it remembered which shiny had already been grabbed. The game itself is beautiful and tells its story entirely without words, but relies on pictograms and body language. Everything is a shadowplay like the Indonesian shadow theater puppets and is very well done. Like GRIS and Creaks, Projection is a platformer-puzzle game, but relies far more on the puzzle aspect of things than both of them combined and makes for some pretty intricate designs. Recommended for those who like to take a little girl around the world and turn her into a better person during the hardships and far more honest work than she did before. The story is definitely referring (and showing) a few legends here and there.
 


The last four games I have on the shortlist are:
- Little Misfortune
- Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love
- Edna & Harvey: The Breakout
- Shady Part Of Me

And will be discussed next time.

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Posted (edited)

Review edition, part two. I know, I know: No Babsticles this time either. She'll be back next time. Cross my heart.
Promise.

 

Shady Part Of Me
Shady Part Of Me

 

This somewhat innocent looking game has some very dark themes. The puzzles are great and varied enough to keep me on my toes. Taking the time to look around and scour for the collectible origami birds sometimes took a second playthrough. If you miss one, you'll need to play until the next checkpoint (usually means just finishing the puzzle). With chapter select and checkpoint select, clean-up is really efficient!
I enjoyed my time with the platforming puzzles, gravity weirdness and all. Surviving in the light as the shade, and avoiding the light as the "me" made for some pretty fun moments when one influenced the other.
Not a long game: taking somewhat close to 6 hours to complete (with a bit of redo'ing), so if it's on sale I definitely recommend grabbing it!

 

Little Misfortune
Little Misfortune

 

Similar to the two Psychotic's games, yet much simpler and darker in nature. What it does better in art style it loses in clarity of story. There are multiple paths to take, yet the long-term consequences seem to lack in depth. Most don't matter much and you can miss out on later options if you didn't pick up a certain object or decided differently. Multiple playthroughs are required nonetheless as some trophies are mutually exclusive.
It's more an "enjoy the ride with choices" game, than one with clear purpose (Agatha Knife). Not really worth the full price of admission, so I'm happy to have nabbed it with the 70% discount.

 

Edna & Harvey: The Breakoutt
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout

 

Remade prequel to "Harvey's New Eyes", "The Breakout" is completely redrawn, with crispy new graphics, smoother animation (holy crap what a difference!) and a story just as insane (haha) as the sequel. Good for about 10 hours of shenanigans, or many more if you can think like an inhabitant of the insane asyl-, I mean character correction institute.

 

Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love
Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka With Love

 

Keeping in spirit with the point and clicks, Irony Curtain has the distinct feel of a Deponia game. Yet it's not by the same developers! The main difference would be that the MC is rendered fully in 3D (somewhat simplified in shading to fit in), while everyone else is a comfy 2D.
I had a few setbacks with progress, namely when I saved then turned off the console, and continued the next day, I would have lost quite a bit of it. Either because I didn't use "save and quit" or other reason, I opted to enable sleep mode and simply didn't completely turn off the console.
Mind you, it's a point and click, and you can skip dialog like you'd pay per word, so while playing "normally" would take you 20-25 minutes, could be done in about 5 of button mashing and quick inventory combinations. Sure you'd miss out on about everything by skipping dialog, but getting back to where you were before losing progress wouldn't take that long.
With no chapter select, but 6 save slots, you'd have to play a lot all over if you missed a trophy (sadly, the same goes for Deponia). The game is about 8-10 hours long so definitely worth buying, comrade.

 

Dead Cells
Dead Cells

 

Ahh, yes. Dead Cells. The island kingdom doomed by a mysterious illness aptly named the Malaise, and not halted by the crappy management by the ruling class.
With the recent shower of DLC trophies (the DLC was out at least a year ago), I found myself going back to this marvelously enjoyable game. The controls are somewhat wacky at times, but nothing too disruptive. The DLCs have added... 1, 3, 5, 6.. 6? 6 bosses, lots of biomes, a plethora of lore and many, many new weapons.
For those who want to go back and crank up their completion back to 100: Enjoy the ride! I hope you didn't get your 5th Boss Stem Cell yet. It's not possible to re-acquire it, so be prepared to start a whole new save file, and run through the game 4+ times to unlock the previous Boss Stem Cells and fight the Giant again on 4BSC. It took me 4 days with a crap tonne of save-scumming.
Speaking of save-scumming: how the frick frack am I supposed to beat the secret final-final boss flawlessly if a single hit sets me back over 80 minutes in a run?! Assuming I didn't save-scum to even make it that far (spoiler: I save scummed the crap out of it). The design is wonderful, but I'd rather be able to reach that boss on a lower difficulty so I can at least learn the attack patterns before getting wiped out in 3 hits (I use Tactics, bite me).
The Bad Seed adds a lovely garden biome, and a disease ridden (well, the entire island is diseased) swamp with a boss that has a unique mechanic (trophy tied).
Fatal Falls added a beautiful sunset area, riddled with traps and exploding birds (don't ask). It also added the lore that was expanded on in the Queen and the Sea. Speaking of, the Lighthouse biome is frantic! No real calm moment, just one rush after the other; a literal hit and run battle!
I don't care what the price is, any rogue-like fan should play this! The music's great, the arsenal of weapons is vast, and there's even more DLC on the way! Some is free, some is paid. Everything is awesome!
 



Okay, so what's next?
Next... is.. oh boy.
Next is Yakuza 0, as decided by the good folk of Panda's Platinum Chase Discord server (I still think he should've named it Panda's Platinum Pursuit).

This is Shikotei, going dark. See you on the other side.

Edited by Shikotei-kun
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Been a while. I've kept my word and have brought Babstickles with me for this edition's review of Yakuza 0! What a ride, what a journey, what an incredible experience!

So without further ado, let's get started!

Yakuza 0



Choice
Babstickles: So what made you even consider a Yakuza game? Weren't you aware of the horror stories of others caving in, cursing the mini-games.. that sort of thing?
Shikotei: While scouring the new games section of the PSN store I checked out a game called Judgment. The screenshots looked interesting and the trailer peaked my curiosity. It wasn't long after that I found out it was a spin-off game from a long standing franchise named Yakuza. It took a while before I committed myself to buying an entry because the list of games I owned at the time was already long. It must've been a year or two later before I actually bought Yakuza 0. Mostly because one particular member of a Discord server wouldn't shut up about it. Figured if he'd play almost every one of them in rapid succession (story only) to get to the latest one (Like a Dragon), then the games must be quite entertaining.
Babstickles: Why Zero, and not Kiwami 1?
Shikotei: It's the prequel and wouldn't spoil much of the story-to-come, but it's also built in one of the better engines. Not that I truly care about the graphics side of a game, but they are more pleasing to the eyes. Zero is also praised somewhat more than the older games, saying it's one of the better ones in terms of control, pizazz and cheekiness.
Babstickles: I bet you craved a bigger game after playing more than 10 short ones. Is that why you picked it up now?
Shikotei: After playing 12 short games in about as many days, I indeed wanted to play something with a little more.. meat on its bones. I didn't feel like playing another digital game, so went to my physical to-do list. I picked four games that spoke to me in the moment:
- Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes Of An Elusive Age - Definitive Edition
- Remnant: From The Ashes
- Trials Of Mana
- Yakuza 0
And let the members of the Discord decide.

Journey
Shikotei: As this was my first time playing this franchise, I opted to play on Normal, thinking I would switch to a higher difficulty if it proved to be easy enough. What little combat I encountered in the first 10 hours felts balanced enough, until I met the big guy, Mr. Shakedown. Boy was he a tough nut (didn't crack it obviously, I got smacked around like a ragdoll)!
Babstickles: Haha, yeah. The first you-won't-need-to-win fight. And actually the only type of encounter you don't need to win to prevent a game over/retry screen.
Shikotei: I.. I uhh.. avoided him for quite a while after that. I spent almost 5 days in the first two chapters of the story. Just getting side stories done, raising money through combat, gaining experience and knowledge about how combat works and what my move-set is (the basic combos aren't noted anywhere), doing karaoke and arcade... lots of activities.
Babstickles: You're that kind of player huh? The type that likes to do all non-story content as soon as possible so you can blast through the story once it's all done. I can understand that. Sometimes the story is too intense to stop and you really wanna know what comes after.
Shikotei: Indeed. No time to grind levels/items/abilities/money when the story gains momentum!
Babstickles: What did you think of the story?
Shikotei: It was weird. On the one hand you have this heavy, dramatic and emotional story about Kiryu and his troubles, and on the other hand you're singing your heart out, dancing against total strangers, catching fish, bonkers combat moves (grabbing motorbikes?!). Not to mention the wacky side stories you're thrown in. While you're supposed to lay low you can go out and purchase half the businesses in Kamurocho, make billions of yen, fight to your hearts content. How come they never caught on?
Babstickles: Really?
Shikotei: Yeah. Hence I did as much side content as possible before going further with the story.
Babstickles: But in the end, did you enjoy it?
Shikotei: Oh yes, very much so. Very well written. The recaps after switching protagonists helped a great deal too. Especially after almost a week of side activities.

Side content
Babstickles: Let's get the two big activities out of the way: Kiryu's Real Estate Royale and Majima's Cabaret Club Czar. Which one's your favorite?
Shikotei: In terms of productivity, it's Kiryu's. You can set-and-forget the timers and do other things while you wait for them to fill up. It also generates far more money than Majima's. Completing it also takes far less time and is less demanding of action, like a light idle-game. A very reliable and good source of money until one can beat Mr. Shakedown with ease (which I couldn't). It took me about 4 days to complete the storyline, only playing a bit of the main story to unlock a required area.
Babstickles: And the CabaClub?
Shikotei: Much more enjoyable. The interviews with the Platinum hostesses were a great exercise for me and got me to test my knowledge of the (Japanese) language and how accurate I would translate them. The dialogue text (in English) would serve as an answer sheet. I got it right quite a lot of times! The Club Czar game has some strategic elements to it, as well as some grindy bits. Maxing out some of the lower ranked (Silver and Bronze) hostesses turned out to make them quite efficient, and even helped out in the later scenarios. Learning the signs took a bit of getting used to (they're never explained beforehand). Compared to Kiryu, I needed more than two weeks to complete the Club's storyline. I even had to continue the main story three more chapters to unlock progress.
Babstickles: The arcade's five games. How did you find them?
Shikotei: I had the UFO catcher done in no time. It's not something I've done a lot (perhaps a few times at the fair) so it was refreshing to be able to play sort-of accurately for no cash (100 yen for 3 tries!). Of the two initially available other games, Out Run and Space Harrier, I found the former to be very difficult. I could easily get to 3 million points, but lacked the skill to get any further, seemingly too far away from the necessary 5 million. Space Harrier I could complete in a few tries. With no time limit and a very responsive and mobile character, I understood that game far easier than the racing one.
When the friendship meters of the attendants maxed out, two more games became available: Fantasy Zone and Super Hang On. I think I got the motor racer in two or three tries, once I figured out what the 'boost' button did. The side-scroller spaceship-shooter took a lot more tries. I ended up buying just the Wings and extra lives (needed them too!).
Babstickles: I guess the casino and other betting games went down far easier than the arcade? There was far more RNG in those.
Shikotei: The casino was indeed fairly easy. It just took a while because of how Yakuza 0 registers 'profit' from a game, preventing me from playing multiple sessions in a row without fear of losing progress. The homeless betting games had that same drawback, though did encourage playing multiple sessions due to how the results of the NPCs could help you win more often. Some of the dice games were pretty fun to play! I was also very happy to finally see Koi-Koi in action, though it was very difficult to master (or even win, heh) I had fun.
Babstickles: Let's see.. oh right! The internet's dreaded Mahjong! How did you fare in this game of tactics, luck, and knowledge?
Shikotei: To be fair, I never dreaded playing Mahjong. Most of my experience with Mahjong is the solitaire variant, where you combine two identical tiles to clear a pile (castle, turtle, or similar structure). The actual game I never played. And it was a rollercoaster activity, with ups and downs, the thrill of nearly completing a hand, and the shock of getting Ron'd or missing out on getting a Tsumo or Ron myself. Had I grown up with this game I'd be a fervent player. After I got my completion points I played some more, just for the fun of it!
Babstickles: Wow, you're one of few players then who didn't curse and swear at the other players? That's great! How did you fare with shogi then? The Asian variant to chess.
Shikotei: That was a little.. no, a lot trickier to understand. Recognizing the tiles was tough enough without the (almost) constant change in moveset when they reached the farther rows. It's so complicated for a new player. Even the challenges ramped up the difficulty way too fast! Bit of a let down. Don't get me wrong, I love the Western version of chess. Shogi just changes the rules too often to follow and remember.
Babstickles: That's too bad. It's quite the classy game, if you'd take the time to learn it properly. What are your thoughts on the batting and bowling centers?
Shikotei: The last time I played baseball (batting) was a long time ago, back in school. It was difficult then, and it was no different this time. The timings were tough to get used to. I must've spent nearly a billion to reach that 5 million earned mark. No fun at all. One mistake takes all your progress and leaves you with nothing but the bills. Bowling was a lot more fun, because you at least got multiple tries to reach the goal. I like progress, even if it's a little. But a few of these games require you to recover your play-this-game cost before you can turn a profit.
Babstickles: I almost forgot the pocket circuit racing! I bet you loved that activity!
Shikotei: You'd be very right! Having had a few of the RC cars as a kid (even have one survivor, though the battery's dead) I was very excited to see this as a fully playable activity. I think I spent at least 10 hours on the track, or collecting more components to see if I could get my car a little faster around the track. Beating the fastest player took more than an hour and a half of testing. I even took photos of the track and reconstructed it so I could perform the tests. It was awesome!
Babstickles: What about the combat side activities? The JCC and the Styx?
Shikotei: I wouldn't really classify the JCC as a combat activity, more a tactics/luck based betting game. And it was fun to watch the weird moves they performed. Winning the 10 three-round bets took some tries, dealing with the randomness of the game. Nothing too difficult, just not well balanced (especially the "mash o to win!" bits that were clearly not always winnable). The Styx arena fights were far more manageable. All but one area (with the disappearing floor) were fun to play. Otherwise just straight up combat with some settings.
Babstickles: Now I know you've played a great deal of rhythm games in the past, most notable Guitar Hero. What did you think of the karaoke and disco games?
Shikotei: They took some time to get used to. Mostly because I had never heard the songs before and needed to know the pacing, timing, and lyrics. Just like I was horrible at first with the previous music games. Practice makes perfect! Had those done in almost no time. I really liked how the games were also present in some of the side stories and I got to show off my skills against the opponents or the dates. You could say I had become the Karaoke King and Disco King of Kamurocho and Sotenbori before long! Well, after Miracle Johnson of course, that man is beyond human. "Judgement" and "Queen Of Passion" are definitely my favorite tracks to sing and dance to.
Babstickles: There were also the two games you could play in pubs; darts and pool.
Shikotei: I've played darts, once or twice. It's not something I remember much about. The various games were fun to play with the sniper darts. The opponents weren't masters of darts, luckily, as I messed up a few times for sure. Pool games were my favorite pastime in pubs and I played for years. A game was €1 and would last between 10 and 20 minutes, mostly because of the 8-ball we wanted to sink as showy as possible -often with 3 banks before pocketing-. Playing it in Yakuza 0 was a joy, as long as the AI didn't get too many turns. Contrary to darts, these guys were sinking almost every ball they shot at, even the more difficult ones (because I hid the white ball behind my color).
Babstickles: Lastly, fishing.
Shikotei: That was.. weird. I'm pretty sure great white sharks don't usually swim in the docks of Tokyo. I tried it with the starter rod, but rarely got a bite. When I bought the uber rod (with all the stats maxed out), I got a lot more, often within second of casting the line. It was a fun pastime, but would never go fishing myself. Too uneventful for me.

Legend
Babstickles: This entry in the franchise is about the only one where you can't use a clear save to start Legend. That is, you have to start a clean new game on Legend, bringing nothing from the previous playthroughs.
Shikotei: You'd be surprised how easy it turned out to be. I completed the playthrough in just over 30 hours, of which I spent about 12 gaining completion points as Kiryu and Majima to unlock the Golden Gun and Golden Shotgun for them. These two weapons reduce the combat to child's play. The Gun for Kiryu does a ton of damage and one-hits almost every grunt, and in the later chapters one extra bullet finishes off every goon. The Gun has infinite bullets, and doesn't break. Majima's Shotgun doesn't do that much damage, but if a grunt gets hit by it, they'll drop to the floor and start bleeding out (losing health over time). It's an amazing crowd control method. For bosses it's not so great ad the damage is too low to take them out, and often they don't suffer from the DoT. For the end game multi-stage battle-o-rama I brought 6 death-preventing items, and a full inventory of the most powerful healing items. Only one death was prevented (got shot in rapid succession) and Majima used up a bunch of them against his final boss. Kiryu got out relatively unscathed (duh, he's been spamming the Golden Gun!). Neither character was anywhere near fully upgraded. I hadn't even started the Cabaret Club, and only completed the first two Real Estate zones due to money for health upgrades, and pocket circuit completion points.
Babstickles: I would say it was easy because you spent that much time getting those two game-breaking weapons!

Climax Battles
Babstickles: One aspect of the game were these additional combat challenges. How did you experience these?
Shikotei: They're what I call "fixed" challenges. There's nothing you can do to change the difficulty of these battles. There's no way to increase your own health, unlock more abilities, switch combat style, or even location of these fights. Many of them aren't even fights, just puzzles.
Babstickles: Like the fight in the construction area where you have 10 seconds to wipe the floor with a bunch of goons?
Shikotei: Yeah. The solution is unorthodox: grab the nearby 'hidden' canon and fire away! Same with the fight in Nikkyo Consortium: bunch of goons before you, one guy with a shotgun behind you and 10 seconds to clear the floor. Behind the goons is another shotgun; grab it 'n shoot them down. It's bonkers.
Babstickles: You didn't complete all of them though, I see you're missing the related trophy. What happened?
Shikotei: My strategy was to play as Kiryu first, and complete all the battles with him before switching to Majima and to the other half. I got stuck at one of the battles, unable to progress or beat the wall presented before me. It's weird, because defeating two Mr. Shakedowns in a tiny ring was peanuts, but defeating a bunch of goons without getting hit turned out to be impossible for me. I literally tried for 7 hours spread across multiple days. It just didn't work out.
Babstickles: Why not come back to that one challenge and do the others first?
Shikotei: Because you don't get anything for completing all-but-one battle, only for beating them all. If I can't get the one fight, there's no point in getting the others; I'd be just as stuck as before.
Babstickles: Did you check out videos to see how others did it?
Shikotei: Yeah, I saw a bunch. None of them covered how to deal with the issues I found. I watched all the battles, including the Ultimate category. Not looking forward to those.
Babstickles: So you gave up.
Shikotei: So I gave up. No point in getting overly frustrated at the brick wall in front of me if I can just turn away and go to greener pastures (next game).

Conclusion
Babstickles: Aren't you glad you don't have to have a 100% profile?
Shikotei: Hah! Indeed. In all honesty, I don't really care if my profile went all the way back down to the mid-80's. It's supposed to be fun to play games. So dropping a game when it's at 97% is still a very good accomplishment in my book. I got my money's worth in enjoyment, so in the end I don't regret playing it.
Babstickles: Any plans to play the other installments? There's seven more of them, you know.
Shikotei: No plans. But I won't say there can't be any in the future. The past 7 weeks were spent playing just one game. The 100% completion playthrough took over 180 hours, and adding the 30 hours on Legend and some 10 hours on Climax Battles puts the total time spent on Yakuza 0 at about 220 hours. That's a lot more than I thought it'd be. If the others are the same size, that's a year's worth of games!
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With almost 8 weeks spent on a single game, the internal balance long vs short is ... well, not properly balanced. So I've been picking games somewhat on a whim. Not the super shortest ones, nor the week-long ones either. A random selection of the backlog, if you will.

 

Minoria
Minoria

 

I first found Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight while browsing the digital stores, and -after some investigation- found that it was part of a series. Minoria is that series' spiritual successor. It's a lovely looking platformer with a room-based map (rooms vary in shape and size) and a somewhat interconnected realm. Combat is fairly simple in setup :short combos, an aerial attack based on equipped weapon, and a dodge and parry. The dodge grants a short period of invincibility, while the parry triggers an automatic, powerful riposte. Enemies do a lot of damage and surviving the early game will test your skills.
I found that learning the parry timing (pretty generous too) for at least the grunts helped a lot. At least you start out with a method of healing and saving restores everything: health lost and items used all return upon tapping that save point! Gaining a level or two at the start makes all the difference against the first boss. It's also a great opportunity to defeat it unscathed, though there are a few more bosses that lend themselves to this purpose.
In terms of navigation, some areas can be quite tricky, and wandering through the structure (let's face it, you're not leaving the cathedral) incites exploration. There are a lot of things hidden in this game, such as extra coins (for new incenses), incense or straight up extra rooms! The most useful one I found was "Odd Incense" which emits a sound when you get near a secret. Thanks to it, a guide with all the collectibles wasn't needed. You also gain a few of abilities throughout the game to help with reaching new places or an extra skill to use against the baddies.
The lore of the world is mostly explained by finding parts of the Archive; pieces of paper with (part of) a story to tell. The characters you meet also have a view on the world and you may, or may not agree with them. Ultimately, the choice is yours and will lead to one of two endings (keep a backup save before meeting the final boss!).
I enjoyed this game very much, enough to play it till 2AM. *Takes a peek at Momodora on the backlog* sooooon
 

 

Ghost Parade
Ghost Parade

 

A aptly named game I found browsing Play Asia a little over a year and a half ago. The art is all hand-drawn and is beautiful to look at, and the animation method is well suited for the style. The story starts off simple enough, but snowballs into a far greater endeavor which will have you traverse the whole forest before the end.
Speaking of ends, I really wish the devs had changed one gold trophy from "beat all guardians" to "return home" or something similar to indicate actually completing the whole story. Now -if you played the minigames- the shiny platinum pops at the penultimate boss! There's still a few more things to do before the journey is over!
As you travel from place to place, and you learn more about what's going on, so do you gain new abilities that are required to progress further. Talking with the spirits you meet can lead to a side quest, mini game, or short dialogue that adds them to your party. By placing an incense burner on the ground you can change your line-up of party members. Each has a different ability; whether it's defensive, enhancing, or offensive, many are very useful and I really liked experimenting with the various members. Some combinations of three yield a harmonic Ultimate skill that you can trigger. One of these is a literal Ghost Parade that waltzes through most of the screen, dealing massive damage to all enemies.
The platforming sections range from walk in the park, to parkouring across multiple moving platforms, bouncers, all the while avoiding the abyss below or the spikes above, along with aimed fireball projectiles. Sometimes the game is nice enough to give you a choice. Sometimes. Most of the time taking the alternative route, or simply exploring the whole room doesn't yield much, if anything at all. Sadly, there's a lot of dead ends or just platforms sprinkled with enemies. I found myself more and more sticking to the objectives the later I got in-game. I wasn't using any potions or crafting material (beyond a side-quest or two), so there was really no need to get the extra stuff. Wasn't gonna use it anyway.
That is, until the final boss (about half an hour after getting the platinum). Boy this thing wasn't messing around. I could strategically whittle down, or straight up facetank most other bosses, simply by out-DPS'ing the bugger. Only one boss (side quest) regularly healed itself. My response was to heal up too and keep whaling at it till its health bar was drained. With the right set of party members, it was all very doable. But that last boss.. off, it had me chugging buffs and healing potions like no tomorrow! It was the last boss, so there wasn't going to be any further use for them anyway, but it was frantic, and I hope more players continue to play that last bit of story. Also, there's a nice surprise after the credits, so don't leave yet.
About the three mini-games present, I had hoped they'd show the score required to claim all the rewards before playing. That way you'd know how high you need to go before the thing becomes an endless (level 30+ on the brewing and shop-keeping) or ridiculously fast (level 15+ on the fishing) time-sink with no further recognition. They're simple fun, but at some point it's just not going to be more difficult.
The one downside I do want to mention is that the cut-scenes are gorgeous, but are pre-rendered movies that should've gotten a higher bitrate. I noticed the MPEG artifacts (squares) far too often and felt somewhat saddened when I did.
So in all, great fun, good story, little bit disappointed about the often empty space.
 

 

Iron Crypticle
Iron Crypticle

 

Have you always wanted to be a knight in shining armor, chasing after untold treasures while rescuing damsels in distress from fiendish dragons? Well, you're not finding that sort of adventure here. This game is all about retrieving the treasures stolen by an evil creature that has fled down the floors of your castle. Initially the dungeon/crypt of this castle is 4 floors deep, each consisting of many rooms filled with nasty critters. Each room has up to three exits which open up after you completed whatever task is in the room. Most of them involve killing, some involve shopping or an arcade mini-game, but they all serve the purpose to increase your abilities.
As you'd expect from a twin-stick shooter one stick moves, the other aims and shoots. There's two abilities you can use: the Atomic Gauntlet which deals massive damage to everything nearby you, and a one-time use magic scroll. The scroll you can sometimes find and has varying effects (indicated by the rune) ranging from a meteor strike, to temporal invincibility, to slowing down everything in the room.
A simple enough game to get, but it will take you a few tries to really get. After winning or failing once you get Endless Mode, where you're stuck in one normal room and face wave after wave of baddies. I got as far as wave 45 before succumbing. Once you do beat the final boss on the fourth floor, the game reveals a new mode: New Game+. In this mode, the crypt has an additional 2 floors and leads to the true ending.
Only one trophy is heavily dependent on the RNG gods: Kill a Fire Bug. I found this critter hiding in a jar, which would explain why I didn't encounter it during that long Endless Mode run. Like I said, it's a simple enough game and plenty of fun to master, it's just that there's no way to influence the next run other than unlocked weapons and consumables. Nothing to get you a head start because you did well last time.
 

 

Typoman
Typoman

 

Getting back to the platformer genre of the current batch, I went for Typoman, where you play the hero made up from the characters of the word. "H" as legs, "E" as a torso, the "R" is your arm and the "O" your head. You're looking for the last part (the "P") to become someone new. There's a 20-some quotes (collectibles) that flesh out the story, but the majority of the game is spent leaping from puzzle to puzzle.
And the puzzles are based on words. You can grab and toss letters of the alphabet to form words, and those words have power. Combining "UP" will raise certain platforms, while "DOWN" lowers them. Using "RAISE", "RISE" or other variations will hold that same power. Not all words have power, like "NOPE", but there's a bunch of them that affect you cosmetically like "HAT" or "TROLL" giving you a fancy tophat of a trollface (yeah, the meme one). I enjoyed my time going through some levels a second time for any missed collectibles.
Going through the whole game while dying less than 5 times is actually pretty possible. It's not a long haul, and using backups doesn't void the trophy, so doing it in a single run isn't required. The Antonymizer mini-game is big enough and challenging enough to be a stand-alone game. It took me the better part of the day to complete it (6-7 hours) and that's with a cheat sheet.
 

 

Toby: The Secret Mine
Toby: The Secret Mine

 

Well, I bought this over a year and a half ago and forgot all about it until just now. It's a very short "puzzle" platformer that has you .. just go right, really. What few puzzles it has were trivial at best, and suffered from poor hitboxes and oddly placed triggers at worst. The near constant camera shake didn't really help the sometimes-required precision platforming.
The rarity is probably due to the collectibles (the friends) and the randomness of the final chapter. Nothing is explained about the what, who, or why anything happens. If you've got 2 hours to kill and five bucks you're better off going out to make waffles. It'll take longer and leave a better after-taste.
 

 

Rift Keeper
Rift Keeper

 

For a rogue-like similar to Dungreed and Dead Cells to a certain extend, it was surprisingly easy to play. Especially when the game bugs out and has (at least) two exploits that make you incredibly powerful after a few items were collected. It's a 2D platformer random dungeon clearer. Which means that the dungeon you enter is chosen at random, not generated out of thin air. You enter a dungeon where the enemy stats (and money drops) become greater and greater, starting at 66% and ending (at level 60-something) at near 3000%. There's three types of drops from enemies: equipment, money, and gems. The latter is used to buy permanent upgrades and you start with 4.
The first exploit involves getting the upgrades for free (money back guaranteed), so with 6 gems you can unlock all the damage boosts available. The Health and Money boosts will have to be bought legit (somehow they don't glitch).
The second glitch I found was when equipping and removing gear. When I removed, then equipped a piece of gear, my stats were higher than before the re-equip. So with a bit of patience (a whole 30 seconds) I was capable of doing massive damage to the baddies. I only got killed by the insta-kill and exploding enemies when first encountered. Cheap deaths, sure, but they weren't going to hold me back.
The bosses were hilariously simple: a tanky one, a regenerating one (near totems) and a wait-until-exposed one. The story made a bit of sense, until you actually got rid of the ones causing the problem and the townsfolk were just "well, there might be more stuff coming". But nothing ever did. You face off each boss after 10 floors, so clearing the campaign -so to speak- was done after 30 floors. Yet nothing happened for another 30 floors. No new enemies, layouts, lore bits... just more dungeon. And by that time I was basically invincible. The handful of enemy patterns were learned, the locations eventually got memorized (due to the I think 8 different dungeons?), I often got through a 100% kill-rate with more than 40% of the time-limit left.
It's a fun game, but does lack the depth and variety of the other two games.

 

Furwind
Furwind

 

The last of the current batch (I think I've had most of my short platformers taken care of now) is Furwind. The game has you play as Furwind, an inhabitant of the village in the woods that's being threatened by an ancient evil. In order to stop the revival of the big bad you're sent out to destroy the essences that have defiled the nearby temples. A lot of the villagers have been captured, including a traveling merchant who acts as your place for character and ability upgrades.
Freeing these folks requires you to first find their location by collecting the map or scroll of which there are two in all non-boss levels. Each scroll opens up either a prisoner level (often a fight arena) or a challenge room (often using a certain mechanic to progress). Some of these challenges can be very tough to get through, especially when these have absolutely no checkpoints and therefore must be completed in a single life.
Of all the abilities I found the flight and healing to be the most useful; healing for obvious reasons, and flight to get out of a missed jump or escape from bottomless pits and preventing a dip into lava. Both will kill you and send you back to the last checkpoint. Checkpoints, by the way, cost gems to activate and double in cost after every use! So save wisely or complete a level with far less gems than you otherwise would have had. Losing a life has it uses though, as everything gets reset, including the looted gems and other items. The only things that stay collected are the sun pieces and the scrolls (though you do have to save them with a checkpoint).
I liked the variation of the levels: a forest ruin, a dark cave system, and towers with lava pools. Each have their own set of baddies, puzzles and mini-bosses. Exploration is rewarded by stashing the scrolls (for challenges and villagers) in far off corners or hard-to-reach places. The game has enough variation to keep the experience fresh and isn't overstaying its welcome with gigantic maps or overly long levels. The introduction of a new ability during each chapter, the switching of level location keeps the pace going and before long you'll face off against the inevitable rise of the big bad.


 



Currently I'm playing Oceanhorn, but I expect that to be completed in the next few days. After that I plan on giving the PS5 some time by starting Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart followed by an undecided PS5 game and then start Kena: Bridge of Spirits. With a little effort, luck, and determination, that one will be :platinum: #200!

It'll be the first planned milestone since Xenon Valkyrie which was #100.

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Not one, but two Zelda-like games in this batch! Along with an entry of a long-time favorite franchise.

 

Oceanhorn: Monster Of Uncharted Seas
Oceanhorn

 

One of a few "Zelda-like" games I've played on a non-Nintendo system. It's got the bombs and arrows, the simple box puzzles, sword 'n board combat, dungeons, bosses. Even heart containers and heart pieces! There's a light touch of The Wind Waker with the whole traveling by boat, but the navigation is automated (though you do have some gameplay involved).
There's completion trackers for the collectibles and chests, and exploring every nook and cranny is very rewarding. At least one item is hidden in grass and I was very, very lucky to have found that one.
The magic system isn't super useful in combat if you rely on it for damage dealing. Instead it's mostly used for puzzle solving. The vast majority of those puzzles weren't overly complex, but the few that are will make great headscratchers. Either because it requires some out-of-the-box thinking, or because the solution isn't all that clear. Also, being able to clear a path with a bomb at a select few places makes searching for a way to that one chest a pain. It really wants you to get higher levels (or risk having to go back for more bombs), because when you level up you unlock upgrades (mostly carry capacity).
The voice acting did feel a bit odd. Like it came from all around me, instead of from the character. Having a silent protagonist also added to the awkwardness of just hearing half a conversation. And it sounded more like narration than a conversation (again the silent other half probably didn't help).
Oceanhorn plays very nicely and I've had some good fun going to the various islands and fighting through the many enemies. The challenge is fairly balanced; the enemies stay tough to fight even at the higher levels. It is only at the very end that you get the 'broken' combination of a certain weapon and unlocked ability that the majority of combat becomes pointless.
All in all, it's an enjoyable game which'll keep you busy for a good 15-25 hours (depending on how well you want to explore the regions).
 

 

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

 

As this is the first PS5 game I've played since scratching an itch with Demon's Souls last year I realized that the controller is really heavy compared to the PS4. With that out of the way, let's get to the better part!
First off, this is a full R&C game with *proper* gameplay and a complete story. None of the experimental stuff they did with All 4 One and Q Force/Full Frontal Assault, even though I did like those entries. Nope, this one is mighty and meaty, with new weapons, and old favorites. There's the Ryno schematics parts (carried by Spy Bots) to find, Gold Bolts to loot, and Armor Pieces to collect (grants some nice bonuses). This time there's also some more Lombax lore -well, kinda- to uncover! What the developers sadly did omit in this entry are the Skill Points. In most, there were these.. challenges that would yield a skill point. Like complete a race within a time limit, destroy all [object], kill all [creature], travel from [point a] to [point b] without getting hit, hit/defeat every enemy type with [weapon]. That sort of thing. That's not present in this game, and I felt that left a bit of a void. It added some challenges to a game that wouldn't suffer from them, really.
What I also realized is that finding the Gold Bolts and other collectibles (like Raritanium and Armor Pieces) was far too easy. They were mapped as soon as you got near them, instead of only after obtaining the Map-o-matic (or equivalent). The same is true for all the "gather x things", the requester instantly mapped all the objectives (or after getting one and talking to 'em). Maybe it finally hit home that the triple A games have made it much too easy to "do it all" without having to explore by yourself. They've taken out exploration in an adventure game, like Ubisoft's [clear markers on the map] games! Most of the Bolts were just off the beaten path, or took the "story says go left, so go right for secret" option. They're no longer a question of "how the heck do I get there"... I loved those kind of platformer puzzles.
In terms of trophies the devs also made it far easier to get them all: previous entries basically required a 100% save file. Get all the Gold Bolts, all weapon levels maxed out and all upgrade slots filled (mucho Raritanium), every arena fight completed of every tier, even complete the Challenge Mode playthrough! Instead: just 5/25 bolts, obtain all weapons, and only fully upgrade one level 5 weapon (going to level 6 opens up more upgrade slots, but they're not required), find one of each armor type (head, torso, legs), win one highest-tier arena fight.. A handful of skill points are present, but they're far too easy, like use a weapon x times, get headshots with the sniper rifle (as if nobody uses the scope). It's a bit of a disappointment. Guess that's why the platinum is nearly 70%, compared to the other entries bouncing between 9% and 35%.
That said, I went for a 100% save file either way. Got to use the two new weapons unlocked in Challenge Mode to the fullest extent, upgraded every weapon to level 10 and filled out all the Raritanium upgrade slots. Found all the Craiggerbears (tough to spot them!), Gold Bolts, beaten the story twice. Like the previous entries would require. It almost doubled my playtime! I also played through the 'chapters' in a different order and noticed a few.. oddities the second time around.
The first time you play through the game you might not notice, but every time you unlock an ability, the other character has it immediately. There's no explanation for it. I can understand the first ability, as it's something that faction might've given the other one earlier, but the rest doesn't make sense. Why not have the item in question for sale at the shop for cheap? Your accounts are linked after all... Some of the 'stuff that happens behind you' which -during a natural playthrough- you wouldn't see actually has nothing happen (jumping towards the camera would reveal the event behind you) other than audio playing and the asset swapped.
It's the little things like that which kinda tripped me up a bit. Nothing major, just.. I dunno, not expected. I guess that's the trouble with multiple playable characters that have the same moveset.
Continuing to the gameplay itself, it's pretty heavy on handholding. Characters usually don't shut up about the events unfolding right before them and act like a flipping walkthrough. As I'm solving a puzzle for the second time (NG+) and going as fast and efficient as I can I still get the comment "there's more to collect". I'd appreciate it if I got stuck, but when I'm making solid progress by having literally just collected the first 3 orbs in 20 seconds, I don't need tips or help. Gimme that stuff when I've done nothing for a minute or two. Don't get me wrong, I love the chatter between the characters and the back and forth during the story events, but in a giant free-roam area with lots of things to discover it feels rather jarring to keep hearing variations on "I should probably go to [x] now".
I did like the way you switched characters. Each one has a set of missions/planets/regions to go to and by choosing to go there you take off as one, and land as another. Depending on who you're with while you visit certain places (the set of character specific places isn't 100% solid) will have some influence on the banter. Small things like that do flesh out the events a bit more.
To spoil as little as possible about the story, I gotta say that the support cast was wonderful. Old faces in new jackets, but they are their own person, with their own interaction with the player characters.
Graphics and level layouts are gorgeously crafted. Each level has its own vibe, color palette, and feel to it, making each region feel unique and memorable. The console's allowed far more particles (like boxes breaking into far smaller pieces), effects, details on textures, more natural lighting (with -amongst others- ray-tracing) giving creepy regions incredible vibes, desolate places a far more dusty atmosphere, and city bustle that neon glow that it would have. It's such a grand leap forward when compared to the earlier games. Not even the movie-game looked this fine.
My bottom line for Rift Apart would be to play the game for the wonderful story, great character development, eye-candy graphics, and because it's an overall great entry in the saga of Ratchet & Clank.

 

Trigger Witch
Trigger Witch

 

Holy crap this game went far beyond my expectations! I pre-ordered this on Play-Asia (Limited Edition, comes with a numbered Balisticism Firearm License and double-disc OST) after watching the trailer, and is one of the first few PS5 games I own. I expected a simple dungeon-crawler a la Legend of Zelda, but with guns and bloody messes. I got a great story that cracked me up multiple times with the amazing, out of left field, twist at the end, hours of fun combat, dungeon exploration, relatable main and supporting characters, enjoyable music, and -most of all- a very underrated gem of a game!
Think of it as giving the SNES version of Link (let's say one of the later top-downs) firearms instead of the traditional sword 'n board. Instead of going up close and personal, you can shoot the baddies from a distance! The same baddies, of course, also get ranged attacks. There's your basic revolver, but you quickly expand your arsenal with an assault rifle, twin uzis, shotgun, grenade launcher, and the further you get, the more weapons you'll carry. At the end of the game you've got a massive nine weapons to choose from, and they can all be carried at the same time and freely switched between. Each gun behaves differently: clip size, reload speed, fire speed, bullet spread, even bullet behavior may vary per gun.
Beyond upgrading your weapons, you can also increase your lifebar, carry additional potions (which heal you up fully, no matter how much health you've got), and buy maps to mark all the collectibles. Mind you, the normal chests (with just money) won't be marked, so you'll still have to use your peepers to find those! The bigger purple ones contain gun parts which you need to even unlock upgrades.
The story is progressed by going to the red markers on your map. The map is initially kinda blank, but entering a new area instantly maps out that part, so you don't need to get to every nook and cranny for a complete map. That said, cave entrances and such aren't on it, so exploring the world is still the only way to find those (and the majority of money chests). Some shops sell treasure maps that add "?" to the overworld and dungeons to indicate special chests.
Trigger Witch plays like a good ol' twin-stick shooter combined with the dungeon crawling puzzles of the Zelda games. Add the fun story and you've got a game that'll be hard not to finish. With the vast majority of the trophies not too difficult, there are a few that'll take a while to get or at least a try or two. There's a lot to do, find, fight, loot, and upgrade so if you like the combination of the two genres, you'll definitely have fun with this game. Highly recommended!

 


 

So what is next? I've currently got 199 platinums, and used the previous two games to bump that up there. As I stated in the previous post, Kena: Bridge of Spirits is up!
This gorgeous looking game showed up on my radar almost a year before it released and I've been itching to start it. A week or two ago I finally made the decision to buy it (for nigh full price no less!) for PS5 (I don't do stacking, generally) and have been planning to make it number 200. Who knows if Babstickles can find the time to join me when it's review time.. I heard she got quite the tale to tell on the Guide Writer's HQ Discord server. *wink wink, nudge nudge*

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It's been about a week since I completed the last game and the time has been well spent. As much as I love doing it, I might need to change up my process of drawing as it just takes up far too much time.
In other news, platinum number 200 is mine, and what a challenge it turned out to be!

 

Kena: Bridge Of Spirits

I first caught wind of this beaut when the first announcement trailer was released. Now, some two years later I finally got to play it with the disc edition released (and only paying €50 for it).
The plan was fairly simple: play the game on Spirit Guide (normal) difficulty and grab everything, then -with Master Spirit Guide (extreme) unlocked- do a second playthrough. I was very unaware of the toughness of combat at first, but with just a few encounters later I had fully shifted into the "Souls-like" setting: fair, but tough.
So while Babs here is meditating to increase her health bar, let's get to it.

Look and feel
The mountainous and cavernous region where Kena has traveled to is vibrant in color, lush in vegetation, and covered in purple-glowing poisonous growth that spreads decay wherever it resides. This stark contrast is the result of a sad and dark tale that is slowly unfolding as you progress the story. All of it is explained and almost no loose ends regarding the characters Kena meets survive the plot. Character animation is done wonderfully well, with everything wobbling back and forth as you walk and run, though I would like an in-between running (not sprinting) and walking speed as the latter is a bit too slow for exploration, and the latter too fast to feel natural.
Being able to "ping" (send out a blue pulse) and see other crystals, braziers, and torches light up is a welcome change. Most games with dark caves feature lit torches (even though nobody's been there in centuries) or other light sources that require fuel, but Kena finds them all off. burnt out or straight up destroyed or malfunctioning.
Every action also has an appropriate sound effect, like footsteps on sand, grass, wood, stone, reverberating in caves and with enough variation that it's never annoying to hear the same half-second bits for longer periods. During combat there are auditory cues to let the player know when an enemy is going to attack, whether on-screen or off-screen. This helped tremendously in the more chaotic fights. The little black fluffy guys are adorable and giving them more and more hats to wear made it feel like a personal army of minions (that hides at the first sign of danger).

Story progression and abilities
I'm not one to discuss story and spoiler-heavy terrain, but I'll try to be as vague as possible. Feel free to skip.
While you're out and about, you're also able to freely explore until you reach the central hub (the village). After progressing the story one step, you'll open up a region, and it feels natural that the other places are still unreachable; there's no silly locked door you could bust down, no invisible wall or "I have no reason to go here" nonsense. Yeah, fine, there's a visible wall or spirit-wall actually. So you go out and explore the new region.
At multiple points in the story you'll find yourself stuck and in need of a tool or ability to help you progress it. Almost all of these abilities open up previously inaccessible locations, or create new passageways. The way you get these abilities is pretty well thought out, so I feel like the story progresses in a very natural way. Each of them can be upgraded with and investment or two of Karma (experience points).
As far as the non-story related abilities go, I rarely used them during my initial playthrough and only heavily used two or three of the combat related ones; more on this in a later section.

Collectibles and other side activities
Once you've reached the main hub and the map becomes available to navigate, you can see all sorts of counters when hovering the cursor over an area. With no maps to buy that point to each unfound item/activity one will need their own peepers to keep a look out for everything. Once found or completed, the map will show it as a colored dot, sortable by type. This, in a sense, is a great way to track which ones you've found and which ones you're missing. Each area shows how many optional things there are, and how many you've done, making it one of the better tracking systems I've seen so far. Many of them are also very obviously placed, like in little coves, off-the-path areas, or as a reward for indulging in plain ol' exploration.
I had little trouble finding 95% of all the chests, mail, creatures, hats, shrines, meditation spots, and .. I think that was it. The other 5% took some time and gave me a few of those "how come I missed this?" moments. Sure, you can use the interactive map created by fans, but where's the fun in that?

Combat, bosses, and difficulty
This is probably where most (potential) players of this game are interested in: how difficult the game is to complete. From the start you've got access to Story Mode (easy), Spirit Guide (normal), and Expert Spirit Guide (hard). Master Spirit Guide (extreme) is unlocked after completing the game once on any difficulty, and does not allow changing that setting once chosen. So you're looking at two playthroughs. Trophy-wise that would mean one with 100% completion, and the second one a story-speedrun. Simple enough, no?
As with almost every game I play, I start on normal and see how it goes after a while. It usually is the one that's balanced best. Like I said before, normal is already pretty tough with almost no knowledge of enemy patterns and abilities I often just plowed through them with a combo or two-three (three light attacks) usually finishes the little guys and normal grunts. The forums were pretty adamant that getting used to parrying early on would be a life-saver down the line, and, since there's a trophy for killing 3 guys with a single parry, I set to do that at the earliestt opportunity (and succeeded). Learning how to parry and the tight timing around it is very difficult, but not because the window is quite tiny. No, it's because almost every enemy attack has a short buildup, followed by a long "hold" before the actual attack, meaning you gotta see the build-up and count the half-or-whole second until hitting that button. Too soon and you'll block it, too late and you'll eat it. Painfully so.
I unlocked most of the trophy related ones as soon as I could and tried to get it to pop to get it over with. I rarely used the overhead slam, running strikes or spinning riposte after a successful parry; pretty much did the whole story with just the light-combo and the bow (with Rot arrows). Why? Because I like hit-n-run strategies and fast attacks lend themselves pretty well for that.
Okay, so what about bosses? Well, most of them gave me a hard time, taking between 5 and 15 tries to get past it. Most of the failed attempts were either due to getting greedy, not paying attention, or not getting out of the way in time (due to not knowing the timing of attacks). Once I did beat one of them, it felt pretty good with a sense of accomplishment. In the back of my mind I did keep notes for the second playthrough and how utterly hopeless I would be against an even more beefed up baddie.
What I did notice is that a lot of the bosses (and minibosses) spawn grunts, either ad infinitum or as part of an ability/attack move. With the field already feeling cramped enough, adding more enemies felt like overkill and damage sponges while the boss would just keep coming at you. It wasn't until the second playthrough that I found a use for them other than being a nuisance. And yes, it has to do with parrying. You parry the grunt and (with the upgrade unlocked) instantly gain a Rot Point to use a Rot Hammer against the boss. Mostly ignores any armor it may have, and does a decent chunk of damage AND interrupts almost every attack.
Now the difficulty I mostly played on initially was Spirit Guide (normal), and I didn't feel the need to switch it (after more than an hour of failed attempts) until I got to the very last two bosses (I did the second one too after I forgot to turn the difficulty back up). It was a huge difference: a full combo would take at least 60% of a maxed out health bar on normal, while on easy that same combo was reduced to barely 10%. Naturally I wiped the floor with the big bad, and continued on to finish off the last in the same manner.
With that out of the way (and all collectibles done too) I immediately started the Master playthrough. Yes I know about the exploit that allows one to skip 99% of the game and basically cheat their way past the requirement. But I paid good money for this game, and it was a very satisfying adventure so far (especially when I found it was scratching a Souls-like itch). I was ready to crawl, grind, and bust my ass on this supposedly legendary difficulty that has the majority of players here scared shitless and not attempting it.
Prepared for the worst I was surprised when I wasn't one shot immediately, or dying every minute to each encounter. Feeling confident and taking the moans of the other forumites with a bigger grain of salt, I kept going and eventually beat the first miniboss (Sprout Captain) with 3 attempts, the last one was done flawlessly (the Discord guys will know) with three consecutive successful parries and liberal use of the Hammer. I can tall you that using the little guys to gain Rot Points is a very mind-opening strategy and will make short work of a whole bunch of minibosses.
I went on to defeat the Vine Knight in my first attempt, versus numerous ones in the initial playthrough, and a major boss without needing to heal up. What I'm trying to say is "yes it's difficult, but not impossibly so". You'll need to make liberal use of the Hammer, learn to parry, and timing of the heavy strike (for extra damage) to interrupt the enemy's attacks and deal massive damage to them.

Final verdict
It's a beautifully made game, with lots of rewards for roaming around off the story-path, great combat system and tough challenges. If you're looking for an easy game, just switch to Story Mode and enjoy the ride. It was definitely worth the entrance fee of €50 for me and I will certainly return to this game in the future (if I run out of soulsy games). Go play Kena: Bridge of Spirits!

 


 

Up next I had planned to play Mistover and its DLC (now both delisted everywhere), but with Ubisoft's latest announcement regarding older (PS3) games, I've decided to pull Far Cry 3 to the front of the backlog. Yes, the online co-op bit can technically be done offline on a couch, but with my shooter skills.. I don't see that happen anytime soon.

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Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3

 

Because Ubisoft decided to clean house and shut down a bunch of servers for their older games, Far Cry 3 was moved up to the front of the backlog. Like so many others have done at the same time.

Single player
I haven't played a shooter like this since Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and is my second Far Cry game after Primal. My usual method of playing this genre is by finding a sniper rifle as soon as possible, gain a bunch of levels and skills with side quests and non-main story activities to beef up that long-range power, and finally become an unseen death machine.
Far Cry didn't let me do that, as the majority of skills are locked behind story progress. Bummer.
I tried cleaning up the entire map of objectives: treasure chests, relics, letters, outposts, memory cards, side-missions, but there's just too many of them. Getting maxed out on money and experience made the majority of them pointless to do other than remove one icon from the map (and there's easily 500 of them). By the end of the game I owned every weapon, all the mods for them, and for at least 10 weapons I owned all the color variations. Must've spent at least $80.000 on unused stuff.
My favorite weapons were the ARM sniper (the signature gun) for its early ability to one-shot the heavy enemies, the AK47 for its practically unlimited ammo (every baddie carries it), and another sniper rifle because I could make it muffled. Grenades were fun to use (especially after cooking them), the molotovs saw some use, but the mines and C4 charges were pointless in my experience. The one time I actually did use them, a cut-scene blew them all up and nobody ever got hurt by them. The "kill 50 people with the flamethrower" trophy is horrible: the weapon is so broken that it sets the player on fire more than half the time, and enemies rush you to set you ablaze too. I died far more often in the hour or so that I farmed kills than in any other moment.

For those curious enough: no, I used molotovs and RPGs to burn the weed fields.


As far as the story goes, Jason (you) has a clear goal: rescue friends, and get the hell out of here. He's done so many things to get what he wanted initially that I found some of his choices really jarring. As if he's doing this for power, and rescuing them is just "a happy accident". For someone who hasn't fired a single bullet at a person at the start of the game, Jason's change is rapid and terrifyingly so.

 

The QTE's are a weird smash-in for this game, but I guess it's a product of its time. At least the multi-player trophies are co-op and not PvP.
Many have said this before, and I'll repeat the words, but the framerate was horrible. It's supposed to run on 60fps, but it rarely met that and suffered from constant tearing. If I could set it to 30fps I'd be a happy camper as then at least it would be a stable. I think it's because of the draw distance (it's huge!) and the sheer amount of stuff the engine has to render at any given time. The game itself is gorgeous and very alive with leaves fluttering, detailed trees, animal sounds (and animals themselves), birds, random events.. only a few parts of the islands feel empty.

Co-op multiplayer
This mode features a different set of player characters and shows the events of 6 months prior to the main game. You get to be one of four survivors of a betrayal and potentially sold-into-slavery victims. The four mercenaries all want the money that was stolen from them by the captain (who also did the betraying) and so set out to find the bugger and cap his ass.
Almost all missions follow the same formula of shooting your way through an area, find stuff to continue, then defend that area for the thingy to finish. There's also a friendly competition (for points) where players sit on a vehicle (jet-ski, quad) and gather a thingy or stand on an overseeing spot and shoot baddies with a weapon with unlimited ammo (sniper, RPG). I was surprised with how many mobs the game throws at you while defending a location or progressing through the level. Sometimes it feels more like a zombie-pocalypse game except with pirates/mercenaries.
It's a fun enough experience as I continue to support others long after completing the six missions.
After completing a mission you get some memory medium (USB, CD, DVD) to decode that can contain extra experience points or a weapon mod. These take real-time to decode. The higher your level is, the more weapons and mods you unlock. I do recommend getting the RPG as a secondary weapon as soon as it's available. It makes short work of the heavy enemies in 3 or 4 direct hits, which otherwise would take hundreds of normal bullets.

 


 

In the past few months the following games got added to the backlog:
Digital:
- Alchemist Adventure
- Alone With You
- Alwa's Awakening
- Clid The Snail
- Cryptark
- Die For Valhalla!
- Headlander
- Immortal Planet
- MechaNika: Colossus Down
- Moon Hunters
- Omensight
- Stories: The Path of Destinies
- Worse Than Death

Physical:
- Blue Fire
- The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet Of Chaos
- Icewind Dale
- Planescape: Torment
- We Happy Few

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